Friday, May 15, 2009

Listen First

It's not uncommon for me to get pulled into a discussion halfway through. It starts easily enough: a forwarded email or a cc on a reply... with a long scrollbar. Congratulations, you're in the middle of something!

You were probably cc'd because someone wants to ask you a question. Or they want you to do something. Don't. Just for a minute, don't.

Listen first.

It's critical to get some context so you can answer not just the immediate question, but the underlying thing that is needed. If someone asks about, for example, Windows 2003 Server compliance, what they really probably care about is whether they can use some application that only runs on Windows 2003 Server with your product. That's great - and your answer is right if you both happen to comply with Windows 2003 Server and works with that application.

Most of the time your answer won't change because you have the context behind the question. But sometimes - and these are the real doozies - your answer will be different once you understand what's going on around the question. Those times, you'll be really glad you listened.

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