Can we influence others by merely learning to ask great questions?
Think about the last conversation you had. Did the person ask you anything about yourself? How did that feel? Humans typically enjoy having the chance to talk about themselves, so chances are this made you feel closer to the question-asker. Did you ask them anything in return?
I have found that honest people will give you much more information when you ask great questions and get involved in their lives. You get an insight. You understand their purpose and passions. You become a brilliant conversationalist. Patience takes practice and the ability to look past the timing of your next appointment, but it’s a worthwhile skill to have.
The Power of Asking Questions
What made Dwight D. Eisenhower such an inspirational leader? In his book Dwight D. Eisenhower on Leadership, Phillip Schoenberg recounts this story as told by former speechwriter James Humes:
One day during WWII, a woman had lunch with Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Pacific Commander of U.S. Forces, and dined later that evening with Eisenhower. When asked the difference between the two commanders, she replied, “When I had lunch with MacArthur, I learned how great he was. When I had supper with Eisenhower, I learned how great I was.”
What was the secret that led to such a drastic difference between the two men? The answer is that Eisenhower knew how to ask great questions that made his audience feel valued. The natural result of this is productive, the free-flowing conversation that is mutually beneficial for all sides. It’s understandable why this could be a useful skill for a business leader to have.
How to Ask Good Questions in Conversation
The quickest way to become better at asking great questions is first to become better at listening. Think about it: a conversation is a two-way street. Great conversation flows when two people take turns talking and listening. If you don’t listen to what someone is saying, how can you ask a meaningful follow-up question?
When having a conversation, focus on what the other person is telling you. Don’t worry about coming up with what you’re going to say next, as this distracts from the conversation at hand. Make eye contact and picture what it is they’re saying. Work on staying in the moment. It’s hard to ask great questions when you accidentally tune out the entire message.
Next, be curious about the person you’re talking to. What do you genuinely want to know about the things they’ve just told you? Questions asked from a place of real curiosity carry much more impact than questions asked only for the sake of continuing the conversation. What needs clarification, or intrigues you enough to ask for more information?
Finally, as tempting as it can be, never interrupt while a person is talking. Even if a great question pops up, interrupting makes your conversation partner feel as though their words aren’t valued. Save your questions for when they’re finished speaking. This skill will carry you forward in business and life.
Learning how to ask great questions can help you bond with your employees and will lead to more productive conversations. Click here to fill out my contact form to learn how you can ask great questions and drive performance from your team.