Saturday, July 7, 2012

Asking the Best Questions

You won't get the answers if you don't ask the question.
Image by hinnamsaisuy

I had a very humbling experience recently.

After completing a project of a type I had never done before and sending it off proudly to the client, I received it back thoroughly marked up in Track Changes.  I was horrified and was sure that I had screwed up completely and would never hear back from this particular client again.  I responded with a timid "I'm sorry that this isn't what you were looking for. What could I have done better?"

She was wonderful.  First off, she assured me that she was in fact happy with what I had sent her.  Some new information had come to her between the time we had spoken and when she had received my work.  No big deal.  However, she did have some advice for me, if I was interested.

I eagerly replied back.  Lay it on me!  I want to get better, and how will I if nobody tells me what I'm doing wrong?

Her response:  "The best writers ask the best questions."  She was absolutely correct.  I was so afraid of looking like I didn't know what I was doing that I completely failed to get all the background and find out the levels of the committees and other crucial pieces of information that would have helped me get a grip on that particular piece.  I was also so determined to make the piece fit the formatting samples that she had given me that I hadn't allowed myself any room for flexibility, which really hampered my efforts.  I could have saved myself a lot of time and trouble by getting more detail up front.  She knew that I was coming in late in the project.  I didn't have all the background... heck, she didn't have all the background.

There was no reason to be afraid of not knowing.  She didn't expect me to know.  The best thing about making a mistake is that I'm far less likely to make it again.