August 14, 2010


Man with question 250x593
If you're lost in a new city, you might ask a stranger for directions. They'll probably help for free.

Nowadays, you can easily reach strangers worldwide by phone, email or text messages. Ease of access doesn't obligate them to help you. Try other options first.

Try Other Options First

Yes, you're original, but is your question? Probably not. That's great because answers for your query --- or a variation --- are probably online waiting for you. If you can't find an answer with your preferred search engine, try another one. Also, try different search words.
Search for places that those with answers might gather. Consider getting books from the library (depending on your question).

There are many places where your questions are welcome and you can get multiple answers
  • a LinkedIn Group (newly revamped). The quality of your question and your profile may affect who answers. Check for similar questions first.
  • on Facebook. If your friends don't know, they may know someone who does. Whether they bother to help depends on your relationship with them.
  • an online forum. Example: for financial questions, the Canadian Money Forum is excellent.
  • in person Meetups: so many, so many different topics
You'll get better answers if you first observe and participate. You're then a welcome guest, not an annoying pest. If you're helped, why not stay to help others? That's a great way to say thanks.

What To Ask

Ask what they would do, rather than what you should do. They don't know you. Opinions vary. Would you act if you didn't get the answer you wanted? We routinely ignore advice from family, friends and doctors.

A critique can be better than an answer. Why not share what you're thinking and explain why? The strangers might raise questions that help you figure out your own answer. That's ultimately what you'll need to do.

Asking A Real Person

If you must ask a stranger, be sure
  1. to use their preferred method of contact. If in doubt, use email. Chris Brogan has a nice structured form
  2. be patient. People are busy and have their own priorities
  3. followup nicely if you don't get a reply. Your question may have gone astray or been forgotten.

The Bizarre Request

Here's this week's most bizarre request for help. I got two long distance voicemails that I couldn't hear properly. That's why my greeting recommends sending email for faster and better service. I then got a phone call and still couldn't hear properly. The caller asked me how to enter a post-graduate program at a university I never attended. Huh? He also wanted advice on whether his study plan was a good idea.

How could I possibly know? I asked the caller to send an email with the details. He agreed but didn't. Case closed?

If you're lost in a new city, you could use GPS Navigation on your smartphone or even a paper map. That way you're self-reliant. Preparation takes more effort but makes you more resourceful.


Podcast Episode 79 (3:48)

direct download | Internet Archive page

PS Say thanks --- even if you don't like the answers.

No comments: