Here is a little tip that works to determine if someone really knows what he/she is talking about. Technically it’s an “information skill” – trying to determine if the “P” in whatever analysis you might be making, is really TRUE before you do any analysis.
All of us encounter individuals who, from time to time, tell us about something that might be out of our field or perhaps too complicated for us to understand on the surface.
This occurs when a subordinate might be telling you about a problem, a dinner guest rambles on and on about something for which he/she sounds like an ‘expert,’ or any individual is simply trying to impress you.
The tip is called, “Ask the THIRD question.”
And it works!
The tip came from my former Commanding Officer of a nuclear submarine where, as you might suspect, things can get very complicated quickly. He used the tip when he was assigned to be the chief engineer for refueling a nuclear powered aircraft carrier – yes – a submariner refueling a nuclear powered aircraft carrier!
Here’s HOW it works.
- Someone starts talking about an issue or problem and spouts forth many facts and possibly opinions – most of which you might not fully understand. Nevertheless, LISTEN to what he/she has to say.
- Then, based on what has been said, ASK THE FIRST QUESTION about something that was said.
- Then LISTEN CAREFULLY to the ANSWER.
- From what the individual says in the answer to the FIRST question, ASK THE SECOND QUESTION – make it a very specific and rather detailed question.
- Now listen to the answer VERY VERY carefully.
- From what the individual says in the answer to the SECOND question, ASK THE THIRD QUESTION – and, like the second, make it a very specific and rather detailed question.
- Now listen to the answer to that THIRD QUESTION very carefully. And here is where your judgment enters.
- IF the individual can immediately answer the third question with what you think is a high degree of confidence, then you can conclude that he/she probably knows what he/she is talking about. It doesn’t really matter if you have a total grasp on what has been said in terms of technical knowledge.
This technique can strip a blow hard to the bone quickly; and, if you are asking a subordinate or employee about something you don’t fully understand, you can have a high degree of confidence that he/she knows about the subject or problem if he/she can “answer the third question.”
It really cuts to the heart of the matter in a hurry.
It works! It’s a technique that will sharpen your “Information Skills!”
Give it a try – but don’t forget to listen to the answers to the first two questions.