You were proud of the perfect motivating speech you gave to Johnny Doe. 60 days later, you disappointingly note that there is no change in his motivation.
You spend a month preparing a perfect vacation, your spouse comes back unhappy.
You burn the midnight oil, preparing that perfect presentation, walk into the board room outline what you believe is a great plan to a bunch of people and find no reactions.
Perhaps you are forgetting to ASK before you TELL.
Let’s, reflect on: Why do people avoid Asking and prefer a Tell approach: Some reasons being:
So as to impress others at the outset, a defense mechanism against thinking: using a gun shot approach, believe they are weak in assimilating and re-phrasing the other’s point of view and telling seems easier, simpler to rapidly share prepared notes rather than face unexpected responses.
Tell approach, takes away the opportunity for the leader to display a democratic way of working or to earn trust and respect.
Asking helps. It is undeniably true that you are a far more effective communicator when you know the mind of the audience. Asking questions projects one as keen to know about what is important to the other person, thus be seen as a concerned and empathetic person. It is the easiest and fastest way to build connects with people and an instant rapport. This involvement cuts across organisational hierarchy, gender and cultural differences ensuring that there is diversity and inclusiveness. It helps to explore 9/10 of the Iceberg by asking relevant questions and understanding what is important to the situation and to the person. Thus, ensuring a win-win approach.
Here are a few simple techniques that you can deploy to be an effective communicator by asking questions in the right manner.
1. Sensory Elements: The best way to do this is by employing your presence appropriately: using words, tone and body language.
Words: Use the Funnel Approach to ask questions in the following sequence: Open-ended, then High-gain, followed by assumptive and finally close-ended questions.
Open-ended questions start with: What, When, Why, Where, What and How. High-gain questions use sentence starters such as– Tell me, What if, Think of etc Assumptive questions e.g. I have understood this as…. Am I right? In such a case you believe…. Is that a correct assumption?
Close-ended question starts with: Do, Did, Can, Is, Are etc. and one can expect a yes or no for an answer.
Tone: Ask questions and then wait for responses. Do not ask questions in quick rapidity- one after another to sound threatening and interrogative.
Body Language: Ensure there is eye contact, listening and acknowledgement of what is being discussed.
2. Focus on Buy-in: Asking questions helps to explore perspectives and create an environment where people work without fear and blame. Thus, people feel valued because their opinion and experience matters. This ensures productive results and harmonious relationships are maintained. The best way to do this is by using a Consultative Process of discussion, co-creation and evaluation so that there is constant improvement and feedback. Ensure you avoid: leading Questions – E.g. do you think that, don’t you think that …etc.
3. Two-way Conversation: Thumb rule is 70% Ask and 30% Tell. Questioning needs to be followed by actively listening to the responses using verbal clues and words of acknowledgement. This is followed by summarising or paraphrasing to restate one’s own understanding. Choose to use the words that the person has used to convey concentration and attention.
4. Keep an open mind: The focus is on understanding: what the person is saying, how one is feeling about the situation and what is expected as an outcome from the situation. It is imperative that when one is receiving responses, one is free from making any judgment or assessing the quality and nature of responses. This is possible only when one does not block the mind by pre-conceived ideas or opinions.
5. Stay focused on Objective: Best way to do this is to ensure right at the outset what is the purpose for asking the questions- what is one trying to find out- Simple facts, complex details or seeking action.
If the objective of asking questions is to get simple facts then ask: Ask 2 Open-ended questions and 1 close-ended question.
If the objective of asking questions is to solve complex situations then ask: 1 Open-ended, 2 High-gain questions, 1 Assumptive and 1 Close-ended question.
If the objective of asking is to seek action/co-operation then ask: 1 open-ended, 2 High-gain, 1-2 close-ended question.