Corporate musings

Uncomfortable questions


I was chatting with a friend that I have met online. I was asking her as to why she was missing from the group that we both had been part of and she said that she ended up asking a few uncomfortable questions to the group leaders and they threw her out! A simple and effective solution to an uncomfortable situation. Is that so ?

Here’s another conversation that a fellow coach Shampi Venkatesh and I were having about expanding one’s comfort zone. Both of us have been notorious (or famous) for helping people move out of their comfort zones and get uncomfortable. The reason we have done that to others and to ourselves is because both of us believe that the only way to grow is to get out of the cosy comfort zone. I can almost see my ex-direct reports smiling as they read this … if they as much as thought about getting comfortable, I would sense it and move them. If they were uncomfortable trying something, I always found a way to get them to try it. Am sure, they hated me for being so insistent that they break out of their comfort zones, but they also thanked me later because they learnt tremendously from the experience.

Its like when a child is born … its gets all bloodied and is pushed out of its comfortable womb, where it was given food, it was safe and it could happily go on being there forever listening to its mom singing, thinking, doing things. But since thats not possible, it gets through a narrow passage and gets smacked on its bottom by the doc, and cries and gulps air to start breathing on its own…. a few minutes later, a beautiful life starts with immense potential to achieve almost anything. Ofcourse you wish some of these babies had remained in the womb or had never even gotten into the womb for the havoc they do as they grow into adults, but the potential for a beautiful life is Nature/God’s promise to every newborn.

Now, uncomfortable questions are the same …. if a question makes you uncomfortable, rejoice! for you will learn something valuable in answering it or even just attempting it. A question is uncomfortable because it questions your “brilliant” idea (?!!) or your authority (hmmm) or makes you look like a fool. Ideally you should hug the person who asks uncomfortable questions because (s)he is helping you grow, know more and become better. Asking the person to quit or throwing them out of a group are all easy ways out.

There are some people who just make you uncomfortable, those you should stay away from, because they will certainly harm you. Whatever science might say about intuition, human beings are intuitive beings. You do sense danger, hatred, love and many other feelings intuitively. These are important signals for you to pick on, so please be sensitive and pick these signals up, but uncomfortable questions from a person who is not making you uncomfortable (no danger signals), should be welcomed.

The same logic applies to comfort zones – the grave is rather comfortable, but you are dead in it. As long as you are alive, use the comfort zones as pit stops, get refuelled, fix the tyres and hit the road, get uncomfortable and become better. As far as uncomfortable questions are concerned they are good to figure out newer ways of doing something, and they are a great feedback tool. They tell you exactly what’s not working. So thank the person who asks uncomfortable questions !

Bottom line – Get comfortable with uncomfortable questions.

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3 replies »

  1. Awesome. Beautifully articulated.
    In all the roll outs that I did with my teams and internal customers, both as a business leader and chief people officer, I always challenged my audience to ask the most uncomfortable, most controversial questions since that would only my the execution plan more robust, the communication plan more empathic and the implementation more successful.

  2. Bindu, well conceived blog as really its easy way out throwing out the person who asks uncomfortable question as he refuses to stay in the perceivable comforts of womb anymore. relating the logic to business, I know about my Industry (infrastructure/construction )which has the tendency to overlook right ( read uncomfortable or it’s taken against owner’s dictate) and when/who ever question is raised, the voice is suppressed by so called well wishers (sycophants) and the result about 80% of companies are under stress and struggling with NPA/Bad debt issues as risk taken was assuming comfort of a womb where as it has been like a new world short of oxygen and risks are way beyond imagination, Wish these uncomfortable question raisers are found and supplied to all the industries known for poor performance.

  3. So true! Extremely well articulated and I was definitely one of many who would have smiled while reading your blog! Thankyou Bindu for moving me out of my comfort zone!

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