Great Questions are the Answer!
During a conversation, a MISUNDERSTANDING can happen at any time.
Now a smart way to avoid this occurring, and to get a deeper understanding of a person’s meaning, particularly in an important situation, is to ask questions. Asking questions, and knowing how to frame a series of questions, is a wise approach.
Equally, how to ask good questions and how to ask great questions, will give you an enormous advantage and key information to allow you to extract the kind of knowledge you need to assist somebody. If you’re too busy talking you may never know what is truly required!
Good questions to ask, even great questions to ask people, are the catalyst to open a person up and generate TRUST.
Most people love to answer questions, so use this to unlock their concerns and meet their needs.
The trick is to ask open-ended questions, not closed questions. Open questions, elicit information really well and that’s the real purpose. Whether it’s open-ended questions for business, or key leadership questions, or for any other circumstance for that matter, the art of asking questions in the right way is absolutely crucial.
Go ahead and master these techniques because asking questions does help to accurately define a problem and avoids confusion. In short, great questions are the answer!
Is this a statement or a fact?
“An acknowledged universal truth about asking a question is that a person will always attempt to answer it.”
TRUE OR FALSE?
Well, maybe I know something about you that you don’t know! Only maybe! A person will always answer a question even if they haven’t the faintest idea how to answer!
It all happens inside their head. The most powerful way to persuade someone to do something is to pull out all the stops and get them to believe that they have created the answer for themselves from their own thinking, and not from yours.
People will always accept any idea that is the direct result of their own initiative.
Your role in asking questions is to get a person to develop an idea, and form an opinion before determining the best answer. Your objective is to persuade them to adopt the answer you would like!
Good questions help to elegantly engineer the outcome you desire.
So, you really need to know what is your outcome, what are you trying to achieve.
In short, focus on being prepared.
One of the most reliable indicators of influence is commitment and consistency.
Once a person owns an idea they will normally act upon it.
Questions with emotional appeal are the most magnetic, the most influential. This is the strategy advertisers use to sell their products and services. Simply put, people will always buy based on emotion and then confirm the decision with rational logic.
What can smart questions actually achieve?
Questions direct attention and so create an immediate reality.
Questions cause your listener to think more deeply before speaking.
Questions invoke a response and can help to maintain interest in your subject.
Questions challenge the listener’s assumptions and bring objections out into the open.
Questions lead your listener to the conclusion you want by increasing or reducing choice.
Questions motivate a person to make their own decisions as opposed to you telling them what to do.
ASK, DON’T TELL!
Asking leading questions is one of the most astute ways to guide and influence a person. It pays off to spend some time thinking about the kind of questions you can ask. You can create a few good questions and this will lead to much better outcomes and achieve MORE SUCCESS.
When you are in any advisory capacity – perhaps you are a sales person, a coach, a trainer, or a confidante of any kind, one of the most sensible and effective ways to assist a person who wants to make a change is to ask pertinent questions.
What can good questions accomplish?
Questions lead and guide your listener to a conclusion.
Questions bypass distractions and they create focus.
Questions take the edge off a direct command – you are not trying to force anybody to do anything.
Questions build confidence and give credit, credit where it deserves to be placed.
Questions can be framed with positive presuppositions; all sentences contain presuppositions.
Questions are often the catalyst for change.
In short, questions used strategically can produce agreement.
Perhaps the most powerful question you can ask to help a person who may be unsure of the direction to take, or they may feel blocked by some kind of limiting belief, or even if they hit a mini-crisis is: “What do you want?
And, of course, this needs to be asked in the right tone. You can proceed from there, and help a person who may be in a stuck state, get them moving again, and allow them to use their natural resilience, and, importantly, their innate resources.
If a person answers by saying “I don’t know!” (not unusual!) attempt to open them up with a little coaxing.
Just ask: “If you did know, what would the answer be?”
Again, using the right tone.
If they tell you something like I “can’t do” something then ask them:
“What would happen if you did?”
This overcomes the notion that they do not have any alternatives, they do not have any options. Generally, they always do.
If they answer with anything that leaves them with no alternatives, and no options, for example, if they say “I MUST” do something, then you can challenge them in a similar way.
At all times, be warm but decisive as you probe further.
Make sure they do not become defensive.
Any kind of hesitation or negativity where they believe they can’t do something can be sensitively challenged in a similar manner.
Just ask them:
“What stops you?” or “What prevents you?” and follow this up by querying:
“What would happen if you did?”
A key message here is to back your intuition, pick up when and how to ask the appropriate question.
Remember, you may well have the right question, an essential question, a valid question, but poor timing can result in nothing more than a blank stare.
By now you are probably reaching the conclusion that if you want better results you need to ask better questions!
One of the best ways to explore an issue is to ask SMART questions.
And when I say “smart” I mean questions should be asked with precision.
A critical factor in asking good questions is to use positive presuppositions.
Rather than saying something like:
“IF you achieve this result, what will it get for you?”
Instead presuppose they will get the outcome they are seeking by saying something like:
“WHEN you achieve this outcome, what will it get for you?”
This is a small change, but it makes a powerful difference.
You want a person to think about what will happen AFTER they get a desired result.
Always presuppose they WILL achieve the outcome, they will get what they seek, now it just becomes a matter of WHEN.
But be careful not to give superfluous advice such as:
“What you SHOULD do is…”
Alternatively, you can say something like:
“What you COULD do is…”
“What you COULD consider is…”
“Should” leaves no alternatives and provides no options.
Always strive to keep a person positive, resourceful, and confident in their ability to succeed. You are the conductor, let them play the instruments.
A useful structure to use when asking questions is:
What… you… verb… target…
WHAT assumes there is an objective a person is actively seeking.
YOU focuses a person given it applies directly to them, and it keeps them accountable.
VERB implies there is an action that is needed.
No action = no result.
And TARGET leads the way to a specific goal.
This is a future pace.
Once you have established what is wanted by using WHAT questions, you can move on to HOW they will achieve it, using how questions, and then WHEN questions to lock in a timeframe for the action steps needed.
Always, always use positive body language to gain trust and confidence.
They will respond if you show patience and you are empathetic.
And keep in mind, a smile goes a long way!
Just remember that asking the right question is all very well, but timing is equally important.Use the wrong timing and it can simply result in a vacant expression.
To emphasise: If you truly want great results, ask great right questions!
One of the most powerful questions you can ask a person who is to some degree uncertain about what direction to take is: “What do you want?”
It’s useful to follow this question up by asking:
“How will you know when you’ve got it?”
Why is this?
Well, it gives them the internal evidence that they can and they will ultimately succeed.
And also allows them to buy emotionally buy into taking the actions that are required. It gives them far more impetus to take the necessary steps.
You can ask a simple mind reading question to get a person to imagine they are crystal clear about the actions steps they will need to take by asking:
“How do you know?”
This causes a person to run their own internal evidence procedure that pinpoints exactly, precisely how they know something is absolutely certain.
It also allows them to take a step back from the way they currently feel when they imagine actually getting the outcome, actually achieving the result.
It literally dissociates them from their present experience, their present emotional state.
Be prepared to amp up a stronger emotional attachment to the desired outcome.
The more emotionally attached a person is to a goal the more likely they will act.
If they are lukewarm, sooner or later they will unconsciously give up.
It also anticipates what’s important to a person by getting them to access their VALUES.
Go ahead and ask: “If you get this outcome, what will it give you that otherwise you wouldn’t have?”
Here are the questions you can use to sharpen somebody’s focus and give them the appetite to move forward with momentum.
“What do you want?”
“How will you know when you’ve got it?”
“How do you know?”
“If you get this outcome, what would it give you that you otherwise wouldn’t have?”
Just keep in mind that asking good questions is all very well, but timing and tonality are equally important.
People will always answer your questions even if they say absolutely nothing!
When you are faced with a difficult situation, a tricky meeting of some kind, always make sure you have assembled a number of smart questions beforehand.
Most people prefer to have a set of rules for most of the things that they do.
This makes any task far easier.
Men in particular, are prone to this process.
So, is there a set of rules you can follow when you need to ask questions, sensitive, tricky questions?
And the key is to plan ahead.
Now let’s say you have an appointment with somebody, a situation which may be complicated, and you want to get them to a specific outcome.
Well, think through the likely responses you will receive and chain your questions so that you can roam from chain to chain depending upon the answer, the response that you receive.
The way you word a question is absolutely vital.
You want to make sure you frame a question to get the answer that you want.
There is a pattern, beautifully named, called a “conversational postulate” which virtually guarantees, elicits a “yes” response almost every time.
“Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have a really good belly laugh, every single day?”
Now, it’s so important to build rapport, to ask questions a person can comfortably answer. If they have difficulty, it can immediately break rapport.
So, you need to make sure your questions are worded very carefully, with absolute care and precision.
People enjoy answering questions because it makes them feel good sharing their knowledge and their opinions.
As said, it strengthens rapport and advances the conversation.
The communication just flows and they feel valued.
And it can be further amplified if you nod your head, and use positive body language all the time during a conversation.
Leading questions are particularly powerful because they can elegantly install the right answer in someone’s mind.
And using leading questions is deceptively simple, it is straightforward.
Just think of a statement that you wish to make, and turn it into a question.
“Leading questions are really useful.”
Now add a phrase such as “aren’t they” at the end of the question and this turns the statement into a question.
“Leading questions are really useful, aren’t they?”
Always keep in mind the value of emotion.
At the end of the day we all want to be happy, healthy, and successful.
This desire can be used when you frame your questions.
“Can you imagine how you will feel, and how you will be received when you double your sales?”
Sometimes you may need to be specific to achieve an outcome, so think in terms of dollars, cents, times, actions, and so on, if you need to.
Consider what could go wrong, and cover the objections that you might get.
As a precursor to a challenging meeting just think through how you want to feel and how the other person should feel.
In essence, be prepared!
Another way to produce the outcome you want is to encourage a person by redirecting their thinking.
This causes their mind to be directed towards what you are seeking.
“I’m curious to know how you will feel when you have the benefits of this change at your disposal?”
You can future pace a person by painting a picture of what life may be like if they fail to take action.
Nobody enjoys the idea of future pain, so it’s likely they will want to avoid it if possible.
Then you can just then magically mention that this has not yet happened and, of course, if they follow your suggestion it is highly likely never to happen!
Once they understand and imagine the ramifications of the choice they are about to make, it is highly likely, in all probability, they will choose you!
The important point to be aware of is that everything depends upon the way a question is asked.
Mastering the timing using the right tonality is absolutely essential.
Just keep in mind that asking the right questions and being well prepared, with a chain of questions, builds incredibly strong rapport and leads to the outcome that you want.
If the intention of your communication is to influence, and if the skilful use of questions is one of the most effective ways to persuade somebody to do something you would like them to do, then it is critical to become an expert in the art and science of asking great questions.
We’ll continue this focus further with the following tips on how to excel in this key area. It’s time to have another brief chat about the power of emotion.
Always keep in mind that people are persuaded much more readily through using emotion. Facts are obviously important, yet by stimulating a person emotionally you will engage with them much more empathetically and powerfully.
In fact, when something out of the blue occurs we do not stop to think how we feel, we simply react emotionally. And this happens in the blink of an eye.
Now to use the power of emotion when you ask questions you must first understand what it is the person you are communicating with is truly seeking.
Tied to this is the emotion you want to touch upon to lead a person to the desired target. Let’s look at one simple way that can help when you wish to do this.
Use the feel, felt, found technique.
“I understand how you feel. Initially, other people in a similar situation felt exactly the same way. Happily what they found was that after doing X, Y happened almost immediately.”
The first sentence informs a person that you understand their concerns, before suggesting that the situation can change and be resolved much sooner than they currently imagine.
Another useful tip seems rather unfair, but does take advantage of the inability of people to blame themselves when something goes wrong.
The natural, normal impulse is to find somebody else to point the finger at.
This tendency can be used by you when you are asking questions.
Go ahead and suggest you know they would have done it differently before influencing them to follow your suggestions to remedy the situation, or to get a much better result next time.
Rhetorical questions can help with this.
The magic bullet with questions is to always make sure you generate a feeling of absolute certainty in the person you are communicating with.
Once a person feels a strong sense of certainty they will follow you.
Again, keep in mind the importance of HOW you ask a question.
Mastering the timing using the right tonality is absolutely essential.
Think about the quality of your questions, whether you tend to ask open or closed questions, and start to prepare the questions you would like to ask and the feelings you want to generate before you attend a meeting of consequence.
Prevention is far better than cure and is a lot less expensive!
The quest is to be well prepared, with a chain of questions, build strong rapport and head towards the outcome you want. You’ll soon become unstoppable!
Of all the tools you possess to get genuine, better results, asking sensible questions is probably the most effective.
Because they guarantee an almost immediate involvement and that’s what you are after.
The next step?
Develop and strengthen RAPPORT to gain TRUST.
Given that great questions control and guide a conversation, and cause mental involvement, they can be used to not only offset objections, but also to help elicit a person’s beliefs, attitudes, and importantly, their VALUES.
And once you understand a person’s values you can proceed with confidence and create questions with highly pertinent facts. This will provide valuable data to personalise your questions based on their values which will make them much sharper and help to generate agreement.
It may surprise you, but if you study successful people you will notice they tend to ask far more questions than most other people.
The trick, of course, is to put your ego and your mouth to one side and open up your ears! LISTEN and pick up key knowledge. This is the difference that makes the difference.
This attitude should be applied consistently and persistently to all forms of communication, implicitly in all sales situations, negotiations and similar situations.
The reasoning behind this is quite simple.
You have been brought up to answer questions.
As mentioned, you will answer a question even if you say absolutely nothing!
It all happens inside your head!
How do you ask great questions?
How do you create them?
What form should they take?
In fact, it depends upon the result you are seeking.
“How easy going is he?” gets a different response to
“How difficult is he?”
“How tall is he?” from “How short is he?”
In other words, this subtle distinction directly affects the response that you will get.
To emphasise once again, you need to think ahead and be well prepared.
Keeping your focus centred on open questions is critical.
“Do you wish you had made a different decision?” will generally elicit a yes/no response. And if it is the opposite answer to the one you were seeking, you may struggle to regain agreement. In such situations, stay with open questions!
Instead structure your questions along open lines.
“How did you feel once the decision was made?”
This will open a person up and they will respond to you in a much warmer way.
Asking leading questions is essential.
Because they alter the way the facts are interpreted.
The best questions draw a person into the conversation.
“What did you discover at the meeting?”
“What do you think about the overall program?”
“Have you ever thought about such and such?”
“What next steps do you intend to take?”
Being prepared means taking some time to brainstorm ahead of an important meeting to develop potential leading and open questions.
Is the person primarily visual, auditory or kinaesthetic?
Establish and discover the preferred representational system a person uses. Once known you can structure your questions accordingly.
Be aware that when people are learning they tend to be highly visual.
Also don’t forget to add a tag question to the end of your statements to gain agreement.
“This makes perfect, doesn’t it?”
THINK about the quality of your questions.
Do you tend to ask more closed or open questions?
Do you have a number of leading questions up your sleeve, ready and available for use?
Decide to become better prepared.
Establish the key questions you should have available, and think about the emotions you wish to generate.
Generating the right emotion at the appropriate time is incredibly valuable.
Be ready, assemble the right questions, build strong rapport, and get the outcome that you really want, and can have.
Your ability to influence and persuade will play a huge role in your ability to get what you want.
Now you always want to aim for win-win outcomes, but it is so easy to misunderstand and, equally, to be misunderstood during an important conversation. You want to avoid this.
Erratic communication skills can cost you, can cost you dearly. To succeed brilliantly in virtually any endeavour it is highly likely communication skills will be an essential pre-requisite.
Your ability to excel will largely depend upon having superior verbal, non-verbal and listening skills.
Better still, to excel it is smart to focus on becoming a MASTER of communication. One aspect of this is to avoid the pitfalls that cause misunderstandings.
A breakdown in communication is often the result of a mismatch between rational thought and irrational beliefs.To make matters worse, it is easy to trip yourself up and end up sending mixed messages.
The problem can be exacerbated because irrational beliefs are almost always saturated with emotion.
Such beliefs are FELT to be true.
Your unique personality is always on show.
So, we create our own rules, a version of reality that represents how we think, how we feel and the way in which we behave.
Unfortunately we expect and assume other people will agree with our point of view, but often they can misunderstand the meaning or purpose, and can even totally disagree with the intent.
Even though we prefer to believe we make perfect rational sense when we speak this unfortunately is not always the case. SADLY!
The corollary is equally true.
When we listen we believe we fully understand what is meant.
Or at least, what is intended.
We rarely ask for clarification because we believe we “get it” and can always second-guess accurately anyway.
But let’s face it, most of us are usually far too busy preparing our response to listen properly.
We make the mistake of assuming our own thoughts, ideas and feelings make perfect sense. We assume they readily accepted by other people.
But bias creeps in.
And it is your own cognitive bias that decides your critical thinking.
And it can be seriously flawed.
To avoid the pitfalls and become a master of communication you need to ask great questions.
And this means putting your ego to one side, listen carefully and diligently, before clarifying what is truly meant by asking pertinent and timely questions.
Great communicators ask great questions.
And they tend to be very simple in construction.
Now let’s say you do all this, what can still go wrong?
I’ll answer that question shortly.
Keep in mind that questions, great questions are the answer.
In a nutshell, being misunderstood and misunderstanding others during an important conversation is mainly due to simple mistakes.
These include a mismatch between your own rational thoughts and irrational beliefs, making the assumption you are being fully understood, and second guessing the true intent of what you are being told.
You end up tripping yourself up with mixed messages being both sent and received.
As previously indicated, irrational beliefs are always saturated with emotion.
And, yes, these beliefs are FELT to be true.
You create your own rules, a version of reality that represents how you think, feel and behave. This is your unique model of the world on display.
Unfortunately you expect and assume others will easily understand your intention, your meaning, but occasionally they don’t.
The remedy is relatively simple.
Average communicators ask average questions.
Good communicators ask good questions.
Great communicators ask great questions.
And these questions are simple to construct.
Be aware that when receive information we delete, distort and generalise what we hear. We do this most of the time.
To avoid becoming overwhelmed with too much stuff.
We want to avoid information overload.
And many of us are a bit impatient to listen properly.
Virtually every situation contains an enormous amount of detail.
Attempting to process such a vast amount can cause overwhelm.
So we discard much of it and assume we understand and get the meaning of the messages being received.
Guess what? Most of us are prejudiced, and without being aware of it, we edit the information we receive according to the way we think and feel in that moment.
By and large, this works fine in everyday conversations.
But it can trip you up at the wrong time and later leave you confused about what went wrong.
Since we add, change, convert and delete the information we receive to match our thinking, feelings and beliefs, oversights can result and mistakes made.
Even when we listen intently this can still happen.
We prefer to spend too much time thinking about what we will say next.
It’s as if we are hot-wired to assume we understand everything we are being told.
What’s the problem with this?
The specific problem?
Well, as we delete, distort and generalise we can drop parts of the intention behind a message. Accuracy is lost and misinterpretation of something vital can result.
By the way, some people purposely overdo the amount of information they put out because they know some of it will not be picked up.
It also happens in written material.
We tend to scan rather than read closely.
However, the devil can be concealed in the detail.
And it can be used as a form of MANIPULATION.
To overcome UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES that may occur during a conversation, ask questions to clarify what has been said.
And LISTEN intently.
It’s virtually that simple.
Make a decision to get into the HABIT of asking questions when you chat.
Do this and don’t be surprised if you quickly become an even better communicator!
It’s time to dispel some myths. Many people think that to communicate really effectively and be successful you need to be able to effortlessly speak in an interesting fashion, a fashion that almost miraculously captivates and holds somebody else’s attention.
Added to this is the misconception that all kinds of special talents are required and an extensive general knowledge in a variety of subjects. It’s suggested you must have skill, charm and charisma, and be recognised as humorous, with a rare ability to tell wonderful, imaginative stories. Have all of this and, of course, people will be transfixed and hypnotised by you, won’t they?
So, we think that to be a much better communicator you must be articulate, outgoing and magnetically expressive.
Actually, nothing could be further from the truth!
It should be pretty clear what the REAL secret of highly effective communication actually is.
It is to ask good questions, and then pause, STOP, and be an attentive listener.
You will have all the information you need. In a nutshell, that’s it.
The art of brilliant communication relies on your ability to ask good, even great questions, and to listen attentively to the answers before you speak again.
There’s nothing to stop you from adding your carefully chosen insights, ideas, and opinions, but the important point to keep in mind is to always keep your ego in check, and to focus on perfecting the art of asking the right questions at the right moment.
Yes, your questions need to be worded and directed well. You do this by asking open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Open-ended questions encourage a person to expand on their thoughts and this allows you to gain knowledge of them at a deeper level.
Keep this in mind, ask one good question and it will lead to another.
People will like you.
So, it’s super smart and a game changer to master how to ask well-targeted, open-ended questions.
Once you have achieved this you will draw out of the other person everything they can say on a specific subject. You will begin to know them intimately.
Remember, you have many faces, many skills, many talents, and some wonderful attributes. You also have choice.
Why not choose to master how to ask great questions and then enjoy watching your communication skills and results soar!