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June 10, 2010

Rubbernecking and The Art of the 'Second Ask'

Rubbernecking and The Art of the ‘Second Ask’

I was fortunate to recently “chauffeur” a nationally recognized physician, educator and retired charitable foundation CEO around town.

            We spent a lot of time in my old car; had many good discussions;  and, caught up on when the two of us worked together 28 years ago.

I also learned much about the man; much I’d never known; or fully appreciated.

Of course, that’s the case with many of our relationships – is it not?  Family, close friends, acquaintances -- almost  everyone  I’ve met over the past 65 years – and then taken time to listen to – has proven more interesting, layered, than I'd have imagined.

In the car, we got into a discussion about the “Differential Diagnosis” approach to disease identification, which students are taught in medical school. (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/differential_diagnosis).  It is a step-by-step protocol for interviewing patients; finding out more about their lives, their concerns, their health.

I’m all for ‘differential diagnosis’ and wish we’d apply it more to our personal relationships and conversations.

How many people do you know who have only one question in them? 


Bill:  “Hey, did you get that car fixed, Tom?”

Tom:  “Well, you know I took it in yesterday and…… (He is interrupted by Bill)”

Bill: “I had a 57 Chevy Bel Air coupe, white on pink, and let me tell you about the time that darn car broke down, too.”

       A lot of people move on to their own personal experiences, to the “me” part of any conversation, before opening words are out of your mouth.

      Either that, or they rubberneck to see who else they might  talk to in the room.

      So, I’m a supporter of the “differential diagnosis” approach to conversations.  Listening to someone’s FULL response after you ask them a question; listening well enough to ask a second,  amplifying question.  That restates and focuses on what they have told you.  Not on your own life experiences.

     It’s a great way to really know people.  To show interest and respect.  And to separate yourself from rubberneckers in the room.

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