Asking the right questions. The BANE of my existence.


Late St. Paddy’s Day morning to ya. Mushy is sick, so she’s home with me while I’m working. The Wife took Squishy with her to go help a friend with her crafting business, and Stinky begrudgingly went to school. It was his birthday this weekend, so I think he partied too hard and forgot that Monday, even though it’s St. Paddy’s and we’re a good chunk Irish ethnically, he still has to go suffer through standardized testing for the week. Ugh. 

So as I’m plugged back into work for the week. I had a spirited email exchange with a client. My work is very technically involved, being in the Civil Engineering & Construction industry. It’s taken four emails back and forth now to find out what the guy is really after. In Heavy Civil Construction, there is a LOT of specifications, requirements, design changes, et cetera, especially when it deals with load bearing elements installed underground, where you can’t actually see what’s going on. Fun times, right? So it’s very important for someone to ask the right question if they need a specific answer. Here’s how it started:

I put together a preliminary engineered design for the client, based on what he sent me. There’s two different ways we can make the materials resistant to corrosion. One way is more expensive, takes longer, and actually doesn’t work too well with the material, so we generally don’t recommend it, but in the case of this project, it was required by the Engineer of Record. The second method is the same coating applied differently and actually is less expensive, shorter lead-time, and works much better. I offered both. Fast forward three months, and the job is back. In the past three months, we attempted (on another project) to use the Pain In The @$$ way of coating, and we lost a lot of money on the project, and it cost the client extra to get it to work. We’ve basically swore off of using that method. I explained this to my current client. A week later, he re-forwards some of my comments on the first part of the project, but not asking me exactly what he was after. My comments enveloped five separate parts of the project. I incorrectly assumed he was once again talking about the coating. Wrong. So my first email back to him, although correct, was not what he was after. So I then moved on to the actual engineered loads on the project. This time that was only part of what he wanted. Next I moved on to how to actually drill into the ground with the right bit, and reissued an estimate. Now my phone rang while attending to the puking child. Can’t wait to see where I’m wrong now, haha.

This illustrates a failure on both our ends. I failed to ask him exactly what he was after, and he failed to tell me what he wanted. Reflecting back on this, it’s fairly obvious that this happens in all aspects of life. Human beings assume too much. I see it in my relationship with The Wife, and with the kids sometimes, too. Problem with kids is, they will think something in their heads, and never actually say it. Wait…adults do that, too! Teaching the kids to speak their minds is a difficult task, especially when they encounter situations in school where they may be bullied for speaking their minds, or end up being victimized for voicing their opinions. If the child is sensitive, they end up shutting down out of fear of rejection or admonishment. I see it with Stinky a lot. He’s not the popular kid. He’s a little over weight, wears glasses, and has red hair. Plus he doesn’t play multi-player online first person shooters or gory games that other 4th graders play. Just not happening in my house. At 9 and 10 yrs old they should still be fascinated with pokemon, super mario, and fun stuff, not controlling a character armed with an M243 SAW, grenades, Ka-Bar, and a penchant for killing terrorists. With how cruel kids are these days, that’s textbook for getting picked on. So unfortunately this leads to confrontations at home. He’ll think about something, assume he’s told us, and then last minute he’ll ask about something, and it’ll be the first time we’ve heard about it. Even though we are very active parents, we ask him how his day was, anything new, check his folders from school, and routinely follow school communications. Stuff falls through the cracks. And he gets very upset at the fact that 830 PM the day before he is suddenly unprepared for whatever is coming the next day. I am trying my darndest to get him to realize that he needs to be better organized and prepared and learn to actually take notes in class. His homework assignment book? Less than a sentence blurb on what he’s supposed to do that evening. This has led to battles over what he’s actually supposed to do for his assignment. Yikes. 

To put a bow on this surface scratch, it is crucial in communication to ask the right questions. And if you’re going to quote someone and throw the quote back in someone’s face, be ready to explain why you did and what you’re actually after. Assume makes an ASS out of U and ME. 


I’m chalking this up to a case of the Mondays. Anyone got some Bailey’s for my coffee?


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