Saturday, March 27, 2010

Make Yourself Understood

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"It is important that you word your questions with great precision and without presumption." - Douglas Castle

Dear Friends:

Comedian Steven Wright tells a story about walking around his neighborhood wearing socks of two different colors. When a woman asks him, "Do you know that your socks don't match?" he replies, "Sure they do. I don't go by color-- I go by thickness."

Last evening, my wife asked me, "What's the difference between loquacious and garrulous?" I quickly replied, "The spelling."

Of course she had intended to ask, "What is the difference in meaning between loquacious and garrulous?"

The lesson is a simple but important one: The quality and usefulness that you will get in response to a question will be influenced by the way in which you word the question. Imprecisely worded questions lead to misinterpretations, and misinterpretations lead to inefficient and unproductive conversation.

Worded slightly differently: If you ask questions with a high degree of specificity, you greatly increase the probability of your getting answers that are meaningful. You may discuss the implications of this this with any attorney who has gone through the exercise of examining a person on the witness stand.


Douglas Castle

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