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More Powerfully Attracting Than Charisma

“When you deeply listen and get where people are coming from, and then care about them when you’re there, they’re more likely to let you take them where you want them to go.” ~ Warren Bennis

Thoughtful questions enable you to strengthen relationships. They can be disarming, breaking down barriers so you can begin to talk more directly to solve a problem or seize an opportunity – with others.

How, then, to ask great questions?

First avoid an off-putting pitfall: stating an opinion disguised as a question. An extreme yet common example: “Probably the best way to proceed is (fill in) don’t you think?”

“Be more interested than interesting.” ~ Mark Goulston, Just Listen

To be a successful question asker, John Baldoni suggests that you be:

• Curious: deeply listening, not to persuade but to first understand.

• Open-ended: asking the what, when, how, why questions that all good journalist use.

• Engaged: demonstrating respect without rushing re re-interpreting.

• Open to digging deeper: asking relevant, follow-up questions.

Jeffrey M. Lacker is a great example of a popular listener: “When we’re reporting on things in our communities, he takes prolific notes. He’ll stop us and say: ‘Tell me more,’ or ‘What does that mean?’ or ‘What does that imply?'” Gilliam said. “He is a great listener.”

Don’t multi-task, I suggest. Focus fully on listening even if the other person cannot see you because you are talking by phone. You will discern more and thus get more done.

“People really turn off when you make them feel invisible, and not listening well does exactly that.” ~ Arthur Hargate

Hint:  Be willing to focus on finding a solution rather than complaining about the problem.

What to Listen for When Someone is Asking You Questions

 We are far more revealing by the questions we ask than the answers we give.

 Even open-ended questions demonstrate the area of our strongest interest (desire or concern) in the moment.

Answer briefly.  Notice the “trail.”

Where is the sequence of questions leading?

By the third question you will have a clearer idea of that person’s greatest need regarding the topic under discussion. 

Resolving that concern or offering a way to support their desire will strengthen the relationship.  This approach will also move you both forward faster on the project at hand.

For more insights see Mark Goulston’s video  “Two Questions to Delegate Better and Hold People Accountable.”

 What’s the really big pay-off in listening well?

Listening deeply is a more magnetic than even charismatic speaking or appearance.

 Those who listen to understand are the ones we gravitate towards. Those who resist listening or pretend to hear, we avoid.

When someone truly hears us we not only feel heard but also feel known.

We gain a keener sense of what’s on our mind. 

We are more likely to not only listen but to project onto that person the qualities we most like and admire in others. That may be the best way to getting along and to accomplishing greater things with others. 

Why?  Because in so feeling and acting, we bring out the best in each other.  We can become higher-performing and happier with and for each other.

See also “Do people stop listening before you stop speaking?”

Categories: behavior, Book, Connecting.
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4 Comments

  1. Posted March 2, 2010 at 3:55 am | Permalink

    I like the tips on becoming a “successful question asker”. Useful and informative article overall!

    Thanks!

  2. Michael Yanakiev
    Posted March 2, 2010 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Kare, – Long time no see!
    This is a very interesting topic that you are raising and very relevant now days. Although frankly speaking I have never read somebody more competent than yourself on these issues. If I were to take away something, this will be it: The excellent thought piece, from J.Baldoni.
    The take-away for me includes the following:
    (1) “Remember, problems on your team, if any, are, first and foremost, your problems. ”
    (2) Show genuine interest in people working for you instead of your own project.
    (3) Disarm interviewee to let him/her open up
    (4) Coaching people or giving people working for you (note, not necessarily an employee) time to pick up speed. Unfortunately for start-ups it’s more likely a catch 22.
    (5) Cultivate relations with people working for you! So that they would be most motivated to work hard and smart for you.
    Thanks!

  3. Posted March 2, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Michael
    Thank you – I really like the specificity of these points and the inherent “us” attitude that begins with “me” taking responsibility for modeling “we” behavior… and golly thanks for the compliment

  4. Posted March 3, 2010 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    Kare,

    I amazed at your insights every time I happen to land on your blog. This topic is so relevant, especally these days when “gurus” seem to have all of the answers.

    Two quotes come to mind for me:

    “I’d rather know some of the questions than all of the answers.” – James Thurber (attributed to others, too)

    “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”- Voltaire

    So much good stuff here, but one thing you said jumped out at me:

    “We are far more revealing by the questions we ask than the answers we give.”

    So, listening to the questions can be a way to get inside someone’s mind, to understand them better. That is such good ad=vice for us in our business relationships, in our personal relationships, in our lives.

    Thanks, Kare. You always give me something new to think about.

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