Help Me Understand?

One of the key devices I use as a consultant is something I call the “Help me understand” question. I use this when there is an apparent contradiction between two statements or behaviors of a person.

The structure is this: Help me understand how A (one behavior or statement) is in alignment with B (the other behavior or statement)?

For example: Help me understand how letting one of your best people get away from your organization is in alignment with your company’s stated goal of attracting and retaining great people?

Sometimes this leads me to some very good insight and a much deeper understanding of the issues. Very often, I am convinced that A and B are, in fact, in alignment and that what was lacking was my deeper understanding.

Other times however, the person I am working with is unable to reconcile the dissonance and adjusts their behavior or statement accordingly.

Still other times I receive no feedback from the question, especially if I pose it in email. I can only assume that they make no adjustment and go on living a contradiction.


  1. Like your post! Been in a situation like that too…my previous employer as you will know.

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