Are you okay?

Are you okay?Simple questions. The answers seem straightforward. But are they?

It’s a matter of interpretation. And misinterpretation can lead to fractured relationships, undercut credibility, and delayed projects.

The question: “Are you okay?”

Pat: “No.”

Devon: “Yeah.”

What Pat really means: “I have a headache and I’m tired; I don’t feel well, and that’s not okay.”

What Devon really means: “I have a headache and I’m tired, but I’m not lying on the floor bleeding, so I’m okay.”

The question: “How’s that project coming?”

Pat: “Not so good.”

Devon: “Fine.”

What Pat really means: “Dates are slipping, and we’re going to have a hard time catching up.”

What Devon really means: “Dates are slipping, but with some extra work we can get back on track.”

The question: “Are we on budget?”

Pat: “No.”

Devon: “Pretty much.”

What Pat really means: “We’ve missed the mark on a few categories and we need to be more careful.”

What Devon really means: “We’ve missed the mark on a few categories, but it’s nothing major.”

What does this mean?

If you view Pat’s answers from Devon’s perspective, you’ll call the (metaphorical or literal) ambulance, division head, and forensic accountant.

If you view Devon’s answers from Pat’s perspective, you’ll think everything is fine.

If you’re Devon, you’ll stop believing Pat once you realize that most of those answers are (from Devon’s point of view) annoyingly alarmist and overly dramatic.

If you’re Pat, you’ll stop believing Devon once you realize that most of those answers are (from Pat’s point of view) dangerous understatements and overly confident.

Who’s right?

Who’s wrong?