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