VOLUME 20, NUMBER 50                                  www.sanantoniobusinessjournal.com                                   ...
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Asking right questions, listening still key to powerful ...


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Asking right questions, listening still key to powerful ...

  1. 1. VOLUME 20, NUMBER 50 www.sanantoniobusinessjournal.com JANUARY 12, 2007 Asking right questions, listening still key to powerful communication People who ask quality questions are engage people in conversation is directly linked ON empowered. People who ask questions are to your ability to listen. Strong leaders are THE JOB psychologically in control of the conversa- tion. Most high achieving sales professionals, excellent communicators. They don’t just hear the noise of someone’s voice droning on in a lawyers, psychologists, teachers and news conversation. They listen intently to the words SUSAN YOUNG reporters can directly attribute their success to and delivery and are actively involved in the their knack of asking quality questions. conversation. Tips The art of listening can be learned. Here are Information overload is all around. As a Here are five tips to asking good questions: some tips to help improve your listening: business professional, you are constantly • Ask open-ended questions. These start with being bombarded with information, messages, words such as who, what, where, when, why • Listen with your mouth closed. The words pictures and images. Computers, televisions, and how. They require the person responding “listen” and “silent” are an anagram. They have blackberries and other high-tech and low-tech to open up and share information and details. the same letters but in a different order. You gear are running us in circles with literally If you ask close-ended questions that simply can’t listen while you’re talking. thousands of messages a day. It’s often diffi- require a yes or no response, the conversation • Avoid interrupting. Allow the other per- cult to pay attention and focus on one thing at a will likely come to a close or dead-end. son to fully express their thought before you time. You may find that multi-tasking is not all • Ask for specifics. By being inquisitive and respond. Interrupting is a sign of rudeness. One it’s cracked up to be. There’s simply too much requesting clarification in conversations, you person should be speaking at a time. stuff. will develop a more thorough understanding of • Use the “P-R-R” method. Pause, reflect While these communications tools are quite the issue at hand. In addition, you will also be and respond. When asked a question, pause useful in today’s competitive world, it’s ironic showing the person you are speaking with that for a brief second, reflect for another second that our human and interpersonal communica- you are truly paying attention and are interest- or two and then respond. Racing to answer a tion often requires our utmost and undivided ed. Some examples include “What exactly do question doesn’t mean you’re going to win. attention. In order to have the effective and you mean?” and “Can you give me two or three It means you may not have given yourself the powerful communication skills needed in the goals that you would like us to achieve by the opportunity to truly think about what you want workplace, you must learn to speak and listen end of the contract?” to say. The goal is to respond, not react. to other people without the outside distrac- • Tune into others. Factual information is • Repeat key information. Paraphrasing tions and conflicting messages vying for your important but emotions in communication important details in a meeting or conversation attention. Your ability to engage people in shouldn’t be ignored. Questions like “What are can help to ensure that you understand what the conversations is at the core of business com- your priorities?” and “What’s most important to other person is saying. It also reaffirms to them munications. you?” are good ways of tuning into other people. that you have been paying attention. The most important ways to communicate, • Go deep. Questions provide us with valu- • Use their names. Everyone’s favorite word build rapport with colleagues and prospects, able information. If your boss is critical of how is the sound of their own name. It’s awfully gather information and conduct business lies you handled a project, avoid asking yourself sweet to the ears. Weaving their name into a in your capacity to ask quality questions. This that dreaded and pitiful “why me?” question conversation periodically can make someone’s usually can’t be done effectively if you are and instead pose the following questions to day. distracted with cell phones, PDAs and other him or her: “What specifically would you rec- English Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli communications tools. You may be able to ask ommend that I do differently in the future?,” said, “Nature has given us two ears, but only a question while sending a text message but “What specific areas were up to your satisfac- one mouth. This may be nature’s way of telling the quality of it will probably be poor. That’s tion and where could I have made improve- us that listening is vital to our ability to com- because your attention is not fully on the con- ments?” Put a positive and specific spin on municate.” Disraeli lived in the 1800s without versation. The result is a disconnect between your questions and you’ll quickly get to the the convenience of computers, pagers and cell listening to the response and your ability to core of the situation. phones. drive the conversation forward with effective • Focus. By really paying attention and using It’s a wonderful and timeless reminder that follow-up questions and dialogue. Your failure active listening skills, without the distractions of nothing can replace human communication. to ask powerful questions, along with poor lis- beeping cell phones and PDAs, you will be pres- tening skills, often means that you may walk ent in the conversation and be able to think, probe SuSan Young, president of Susan Young out of meetings frustrated because there are and diagnose. Without focusing your complete Media Relations Inc. and Get In Front Com- communication barriers that could have been attention on the conversation at hand, you will munications in San Antonio, has been in the avoided. Often times, the person who is look- miss opportunities and important details. news and communications industry for 22 ing for information has failed to ask the right years. Contact her via her Web site, www. questions and leaves without the sale, the new Listening getinfrontcommunications.com, or at 210- job, or the settled disagreement. The quality of your questions and how you 375-6422. Reprinted for web use with permission from the San Antonio Business Journal. ©2006, all rights reserved. Reprinted by Scoop ReprintSource 1-800-767-3263.