This is from a participant in our Workflow Learning workshop
Why is it easier for people to say “It depends” when they are asked a question? I often hear this prevalent response from scientists, as well as workers and leaders.
What do people mean exactly when they say it?
It could be mental requests like
“Provide me more information. Tell me more.”
“What is the issue and the problem?”
“What is your point of view?”
“What do you want to achieve?”
Or for others, it may simply mean “I don’t understand.”
At times, “I am just a smart aleck who wants to show off.”
The “It depends” response suggests that the question or issue requires more careful thinking.
Timothy Carey, Ph.D. wrote in a Psychology Today article
Understanding the appropriateness of “It depends” (and why many more advice-givers should use these two words with much greater frequency than they do) hinges on understanding where the dependingness comes from. When you’re trying to decide whether to do A or B, the answer doesn’t depend on anything “out there” in the external world. The “depends” all comes down to you and your internal world. The suitability or otherwise of any course of action depends entirely on what you want.
Carey, also suggests further, that this has to do with a deliberation process.
The trouble is, we always have lots of wants. That’s why the “depends” is so important to pay attention to. If you’re deliberating over something, it must be because you’re not clear about how to respond. Should I go or stay? Should I spend or save? Should I study or party?
In my related work to Workflow Learning and our workshops, a key aspect is the deliberate process of thinking.
Oftentimes, we want learners to grasp what we teach them. But in the context where learners are thinking to solve issues, they must go through a deliberation process in their minds or with their teams.
“What happens if I adjust the formula to add more of this element? What could be the possible outcome?
Deliberate thinking is the start of good quality learning and it is essential to arrive at the most reliable answers. After all, this is what we want workers to do.
Ray Jimenez, PhD
“Helping Learners Learn Their Way”