There are solid strategic reasons to ask questions.
A few examples:
- Questions help you shift conversational gears. They confirm that you, and whomever you’re speaking with, share enough information or understanding to move on.
- Questions encourage the speaker to stop wandering and focus on what’s important.
- Questions can help you get reengaged in a conversation that feels boring. They can help you resist an impulse to start lecturing or acting on an untested assumption.
When you’re ready to shift gears it’s important to be sure all parties feel they’re understood.
One of the reasons so many conversations loop back to feelings or data already covered—a prime reason for boredom and frustration—is a feeling that the other person doesn’t really understand your position. Ask questions to keep the conversation moving forward:
- Is there something you’re saying that you’d like to be sure I understand? I’ll tell you what I heard and you can let me know if I’ve got what you’re saying.
- Would it be helpful for me to summarize the points I think are important? I don’t want to keep going if we don’t understand each other.
- Any part of what I said that you’d like to ask a question about? Or conversely: Can I ask you a couple of specific questions to be certain I understand what you think is important?
Questions can focus the conversation on what’s important.
Conversations have a tendency to wander unless at least one person keeps bringing attention to (talking or asking about) focusing on the important aspects. Questions are a way to help the other person focus:
- Is there a specific part of what you said that you’d like to underline for me?
- I have a couple of specific questions, is this a good time to ask them?
- Is this a good time to summarize what I’ve heard to be sure I’ve got it?
Questions can help you refocus when you’re bored or even when you’re tired of taking the high road and are tempted to just join the other person in pushing your opinion without listening.
Formulating a question encourages you to strategize about how to influence the conversation to get focused, get shorter, or to lean in a direction that is more interesting to you. Questions engage your thinking brain and can help quiet your emotional brain—boredom is an emotional state and impulsive interruptions reflect low emotional regulation.
- I’d be interested in how what you’re saying might affect how we relate to current clients?
- Is there a way we can make practical use of this data?
- What do you think would be the potential timing, if we were to introduce this idea to our teams? I find I’m worried about diminishing our focus on …
The impact of all these questions is based you being truly curious. Questions that are disguised statements—I.e., I think… don’t you agree?—are typically nowhere near as effective in influencing a conversation. Looking for an aspect of the conversation that truly sparks your curiosity may take effort, but can pay big rewards in increased loyalty and creativity of team members, clients who stick with you, and a wider network of people who trust you are someone who listens well.
Questions also let you discover small, important tweaks that can improve you services, products, and client satisfaction. More on this in a future article.
Asking questions can be efficient and respectful. You can move conversations along, while helping your conversation partner feel good about you. Being conversationally efficient, while being respectful isn’t easy, but it is something you can learn. Having difficult conversations can be easier when you know how to ask good questions.
If you’d like to learn how to craft questions and how to ask curious questions more often, why not call or email us? Increasing your positive connection with your team may be just a few question marks away.