May 13, 2021

“Why Are You Doing It That Way? Vs. “Can You Tell Me Why You’re Doing It That Way?”

As those of you who’ve met me surely know, I have a lot of ideas about how things ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ be done—mostly, that things should be done exactly the way I say they should be done.

Consequently, my internal dialogue when I see someone doing something differently is often, “What is wrong with you?”

Thankfully, I have the wit to keep that question internal. (Most of the time…)

These days when I see someone doing something in a way I find… baffling… I rely on,

“Can you tell me why you’re doing it that way?”

Why is this phrase magical?

First, it begins with “Can you tell me” which implies the person has a reason—they are not making a willy-nilly choice.

“Why are you doing it that way?” usually lands as an accusation—and devolves from there, given its implications of insubordination and/or incompetence.

Another reason “Can you tell me why you’re doing it that way?” is useful is that it’s just possible someone is doing it that way because they have a better idea/more complete information than you do.

Which leaves you with the opportunity to learn something—always a plus.


For more magical phrases take a look at, “Let Me Know What I Can Do…” vs. “How Can I Help?”