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Why are you telling me this?

When two people converse, there are two distinct interactions: 1) what the person saying believes they are saying, and 2) what the person hearing believes they are hearing. The longer people know each other, the more certain they become in these beliefs. Some people know their mother’s “it’s fine” statement actually means “I’m disappointed.” 

In business, however, our interactions are less obvious. “The package arrived” sounds simple enough to the listener, and is probably a very straightforward statement for the person saying it. What are they wanting to happen?

“The package has arrived” could mean:

  • "Hey, just thought I’d let you know, package is here, I’m processing it now”

  • ”Package has arrived, I’m not doing anything with it, it’s your responsibility now”

  • ”We got an email from the shipper that it arrived, I haven’t actually seen it but I’m passing along the notification”

  • ”Package has arrived, I’ll be going over next steps on it with you later, this is mostly an FYI”

We receive alerts, notes, instant messages, emails from coworkers constantly. Most of us get too many of these. If you have communication confusion, friction or operational difficulty with your team, you may experience these phrases from time to time:

  • “I didn’t realize that’s what you meant”

  • “You didn’t say that part”

  • “Oh, I wish I knew that earlier”

  • “It wasn’t obvious”

  • ”I’m not clairvoyant!”

Trust your intuition less. Instead, ask a SIMPLE question: 

Why are you telling me this?

“It’s here” might mean just a “thought you should know” but it also might mean “it’s yours to deal with” - we don’t all communicate with the same style, and bridging those gaps with a clear “why are you telling me this” will help address procedural confusion within your organization. One of the best outcomes of the discussion could be “you don’t need to tell me that any more” - both parties will enjoy that benefit moving forward. Or you may end up saying “I get the same alert, no need to tell me.” 

It sounds a bit off-putting. It may be initially interpreted as insulting. If you get clarity, however, you’ll avoid the obvious risk of them thinking one thing and you thinking something different. 


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