Asking Powerful Questions and Listening!
Recently, I was alerted to a new article from Sharon Lechter in which she sets out a number of pointers for getting much‑needed answers to questions this can be especially associated with getting project stakeholders' requirements. Her suggestions seemed to me to make a lot of sense. The following is published here with permission.
Make Sure You Are Asking Powerful Questions and Listening!
By Sharon Lechter
There's an art to asking effective questions, and you must get it right if you intend to get in your customer or prospective customer's shoes. In fact, this is such an important and basic necessity to all businesses, entrepreneurs, and project managers and leaders, that it's right up there with being proficient in your field. In order for you to successfully master this, you need to be able to ask specific, targeted questions that will draw out the answers you are seeking.
The danger in not being able to ask great questions is this: when we don't ask, we assume, and when we assume, well, it's easy to get it wrong. So many entrepreneurs, project managers and leaders, fall flat on their face just because they make assumptions.
As soon as you are able to completely master the art of asking questions, you will begin experiencing more beneficial, longer‑lasting connections and relationships that will, in turn, allow you to create more value for your clients, for yourself, and for your projects. The questions we ask will determine the overall quality of our relationships but also our problem‑solving abilities, our curiosity, and our creativity all of which are key components of our overall success.
Here are five proven ways to ask better, more powerful questions.
1. Choose wisely Open-ended questions (Why do you like this?) are always a better option than closed-ended (Do you like this?) questions. Closed‑ended questions usually result in a "yes" or "no" response while open‑ended questions allow the conversation to go in almost any direction. So, try to focus on "what" or "how" questions. A great question should be effective and thought provoking. Here are a few examples of great questions:
What do you make of ?
How do you feel about ?
What can you tell me regarding ?
How would you handle ?
2. Practice patience A huge part of effective communication is actually learning to be quiet. It's normal to want to fill the silence, but it's important to learn to practice patience and wait for the answers you are seeking. The less you say, the more you hear. Allow the answers to come at their own speed. A lot of people are terrified of having a few seconds of silence. Remember, it is perfectly acceptable to pause, remain quiet and formulate what you are going to say next.
3. Allow the answer to develop A lot of times, the answer for which you are looking doesn't actually exist yet. It will develop and grow as the conversation grows. Don't make the common mistake of ending or interrupting the answering process too soon. Allow time for the conversation to grow organically as the exchange goes on. You should be in no hurry. The more you get to know someone, the more natural the conversation will flow.
4. Remain curious Be curious. It truly is an integral part of the questioning process. Remember to ask the basics like who, what, where, when, why and how. The point is this: never assume you know what anyone's answer will be. If you go into a conversation with this mind‑set, you are sure to miss a lot of what's being said. Use your curiosity to hear, and then follow‑up with even deeper discovery questions.
5. Forget the power play You are intelligent. This is a given. But during a discovery conversation is the worst time to try and put your smarts on display. You must be willing to forgo control of the conversation to effectively question and gather information. Forget the power play and focus instead on listening. When you are really listening, you will tune into different levels of emotional, verbal, and nonverbal communication.
Keys to listening
Asking the right questions is important, but being a better listener is equally as important. Let's say you meet with a potential client, and you ask your first question. What happens next is so imperative to the success of the process, and that is: how good you are at receiving their answer. We are never really taught to be good listeners. We are told to listen a lot but not coached on how to actually do that, so most of us fumble through life missing a lot of what is being said, simply because we don't know how to tune in.
We've all heard the saying, "If you're not listening, you're not learning," and it couldn't be truer when applied to business. You may be equipped with the best questions in the world, but if you aren't capable of receiving the answers to those questions, what's the point?
Your full attention will allow you to hear everything that is being said and to see everything else. Visual communication is just as important as auditory communication, and the two together paint the complete picture for you. It all comes down to effective communication skills.
Remember, to be a good listener takes practice. To be a great listener takes patience. Asking the right questions and listening to what is being said will set you miles apart from the competition.
1. Sharon Lechter is one of the world's foremost experts on entrepreneurial and financial success. She is an international keynote speaker providing valuable information and actionable steps on financial literacy, leadership, entrepreneurship and wealth building, and an authority on entrepreneurial and financial success. She is co-author of the best-selling book Rich Dad Poor Dad, and author of a new book Success & Something Greater. Her website is https://sharonlechter.com.