Use Confusion to Your Advantage
by Doug Sundheim
If you're not confused, you're not paying attention.
One of my clients, a successful 40 year veteran in the insurance business, is a master at using confusion to his advantage. 75% of what comes out of his mouth are questions trying to clarify something. It's like watching an episode of Columbo. Recently we chatted about his style and he explained it this way. "I definitely ask a lot questions to get people to open up, but it's more than that. I geninuely don't know the answers to most of the questions I ask. I think too many people pretend they know things that they don't - because they don't want to look foolish. What they often fail to realize is that they're killing opportunites to learn in the process.
Contrary to popular belief, confusion isn't a bad thing. In fact, confusion can be a very good thing. It shows the gaps in your understanding. Don't shy away from it. Get inquisitive. Ask questions. Use it to get smarter. Furthermore, realize that if you're confused, it's likely that others are as well. And sometimes sharing your confusion is an effective way to open powerful and productive conversations.
1. The next time you feel perplexed about a situation, share it with someone.
2. Ask for their thoughts (people loved to be asked for their opinion).
3. Listen closely for something you might be missing.
4. Repeat frequently - there's no use doing all the thinking yourself - it takes too long and you only get one opinion.
My musing: Feeling overwhelmed with the complexities of today along with the accelerating pace of change, is a pre-requisite to prevent jumping to conclusions based on a limited perspective. The way a question is asked can turn a puzzling problem into a clearly solvable issue. Perspectives can be enlarged by tapping into other minds, especially those that are not well-informed about the situation.