Understanding a question is half an answer – Socrates
How many times have you been confronted, during a presentation or at a meeting, with a question? A question that has made you think, engage you and pull you back into the conversation or dialogue where you might have lost focus.
In all forms of communication, one’sÂ impact is most effective when we pay attention to the receipt of our influence. Â Questions, in my view, allows one to listen and interject at the relevant time and get the other party engaged and excited about the conversation or the subject being discussed. In the relevant context, a question constructed and asked properly acts as aÂ catalyst. Questioning skills deserve much more attention than they usually get.
1. Tools – I have observed that in my coaching sessions that through proper questions, the clients come to their own extraordinary personal and professional solutions.Â Questions in the right framework are simple and yet precise as surgical tools.
2. Facilitates Listening – Questions asked in the right context forces you to listen,Â be-present and gives an opportunity to the talker to readdress something and possibly allows them to understand another’s perspective.Â Practice listening first then use simple strategic and powerful questions.
3. Negotiation – Many times even in negotiation discussions, questions help the other person see your perspective and brings them closer to your sideÂ thus strengthening your influencing ability in that situation.
4. Engaging – Goals or a vision need a commitment and a leader realizes that this dedication needs to happen at an emotional and values based level to give them personal meaning. If people have no emotional energy around a goal then there is little inspiration and commitment.Â Understanding what values and meaning a goal has for a person motivates action.Â Questions enables you to create that buy-in.
5. Perspective – As a Coach, with very few powerful questions, I help clients deploy unexpected potential by providing an almost magical change of perspective. Appropriate powerful questions can open unlimited horizons for a person’s development and growth not only in coaching sessions but also in meetings, discussions, presentations, and inÂ conversation amongstÂ team members.
Types of Questions
Each of us signal in different ways how we process information.Â Learning to perceive how a person processes information assists us to frame more succinct and meaningful questions.
Language shifts and changes over time, context and individual stories. Much of our everyday conversation runs on a series of assumptions.Â For example, if someone says “what a beautiful scene?” We assume we know exactly what they mean but it could mean many things from architecture, fish, river, sky, skyline, glass, buildings, arch to bridge or many other aspects of life and nature.
We process information through our senses : visual, auditory, and tactile.
There are different type of questions and the type of question used depends on the situation and what you are trying to find from that person.
1. Closed questions – when time is of essence and you want the dialogue towards a more centered, concentrated focus or conclusion.Â e.g. Do you want to decide on some actions right away or is this still a little early for you?
2. Ideal Solution – when you want to help someone to think out of the box and dare someone to formulate positive outcome to issues or goals or interferences. e.g. If you really dared to formulate your deepest hopes, what would you say?
3. Magical questions – similar to the above but something more magical, heroic, or superhuman e.g. What would you do to make things right, if you had unlimited powers?
4. Directed /Leading Questions – when you want the focused attention of the other person on something specific. e.g. Are you angry?
5. Open or expansive questions – when you want to give someone a very large area of expression or larger context of a position. e.g. What do you feel when facing this type of situation or what are your options?
6. Future Projection Questions – Upward laddering technique of powerful questions is a process that utilizes one simple question that assists a person to understand their goals and deepen them. Let’s say if someone says they want to the best in what they do.Â Future projection questions such asÂ A) If you achieve the goal, what would be the result?Â B) If you achieve the goal/outcome what would that mean to you?Â Enables the other person to feel committed to their goal and deepen the meaning.
7. Neutral – what do you feel typically presents an open field to express without limitations.
Any question is relevant if asked in the right context and enables you to determine if you can continue to push forward, pull back or change your style.Â The most important part of questions is that it should assist in keeping the parties in a dialogue engaged and enable you to influence someone’s behavior or thinking, latter especially useful in negotiations, coaching and mentoring.
Bottom line, questions enables you to think, create and enhance trust and strengthens communication amongst a team, and between two people.Â Managers instead of telling one of their subordinates to get something done and not seeing results might do well by asking the right questions. Try it, and the results will amaze you.
References : Coaching As Dialogue – Dr Hilary Armstrong