Do you ever wonder if too much communication is happening? There are so many ways to communicate in person and online and there’s so much information coming at you 24/7 that it’s fair to ask: Can you overcommunicate?
Short answer? No.
No, you can never overcommunicate. It’s similar to the daft expression people like to say, “You can never be too pretty, or have too much money.”
How you communicate is what makes the difference.
Effective leaders in any walk of life use questions instead of statements as their primary communication tool. They understand the power of asking questions and so use inquiring words like “who, what, why, when, where, and how,” to find out what is important in a conversation 80% of the time. They proclaim by way of statements merely 20% of the time.Want to make your communication more effective? Check out @debrabenton's new blog, Don't Underestimate The Power Of Asking Questions for the primary communication tool effective leaders use. Click To Tweet
The Importance of Asking Questions
Questions are the basic research everyone needs to do concerning everything and everyone. You learn about your audience, customers, competitors, bosses, and team members so that you know better how to deal with them. You are other-oriented, not self-oriented. You don’t have to agree with people, but you do need to understand where they are coming from.
Questions help you be other-focused instead of self-focused. You need to understand what the other person says, wants, will do, and won’t do. And for that information, you have to inquire. A good conversation to most people is when they are doing most of the talking. So let them. Encourage them with queries.
When you do, you will develop affinity. You don’t bond with people when you tell them all that you know; you bond when you inquire about what they know.
As one executive told me, “With questions you gain empathy. It’s as if you’re saying, ‘Buddy, I understand you (or your situation), and I can put myself in your shoes.’”
Asking questions isn’t just for the other person, however. It’s for you.You don’t have to agree with people, but you do need to understand where they are coming from. via @debrabenton https://bit.ly/30E3eQV Click To Tweet
The Benefits of Asking Questions In The Workplace
Being other-oriented works to your advantage. There’s a whole host of benefits found when you ask questions of those who work with, for and above you.
In addition to building affinity, you appear more competent (not less) to people when you ask them questions, according to research published by Harvard Business School. (Which is why it’s a good idea to ask questions even when you’re the one being interviewed.)
When you ask questions, you will not only bond with others and appear more competent, you will also
- Show interest in others rather than coming across as just trying to get what you want
- Flatter others and maintain their self-esteem
- Distinguish yourself from the know-it-alls
- Find out what the other people care about, value, like, and dislike
- Get a more honest assessment of the situation
- Avoid jumping to conclusions and making false assumptions
- Help guide people to arrive at the answer you want
- Buy yourself time
- Handle surprise and attack by asking for clarification instead of jumping into a defensive mode
- Persuade better
- Reinforce, clarify, or correct what you think you know
- Test and verify what others know
Questions take pressure off you to perform, make other people feel important, and help you learn something you likely wouldn’t if you were the talker.
How To Ask Good Questions At Work
Asking is not stonewalling, stalling, or avoiding, and it’s not being slippery, intimidating, dominating, embarrassing, nosy, or verbally stalking. Questions are all about learning so that when you do speak up, you’ll know enough to make what you say worth hearing. Good leaders ask all the questions; they do not provide all the answers.
Good leaders ask all the questions; they do not provide all the answers.
They also know that to ask good questions, they have to ask in the right way. Here are 7 tips for asking good questions
- Be Calm and Non-Judgmental.
- Ask Questions That Help Others Shine.
- Focus On Negative Outcomes.
- If Needed, Ask The Same Question Again…And Again.
- Listen, Listen, Listen.
- Ask Questions 80% of The Time, Not 100% of The Time.
- Don’t Ask Stupid Questions.
1. Be Calm and Non-Judgmental.
When you ask, choose your words and tone carefully. Phrase and deliver your questions with an emotionally regulated tone of voice along with a relaxed, non-judgmental facial expression so the query is well received. “I was curious how the report turned out. Can you update me?” is much more effective than, “Did you even remember to finally do the report?” said with a sneer.
Query to learn, engage, and let others shine. You don’t do it to interrogate, put a person into a corner, or be hostile.
2. Ask Questions That Help Others Shine.
Purposely ask some questions for which you know the other people have good and ready answers. It makes them look smart and clever. “Ryan, you won the contract over three competitors. What do you think was the key?” Ryan will be more likely to answer from a place of confidence and will know that you see his ability.
Even your comments can be framed in question forms. Instead of, “We need to complete the project by Tuesday,” it’s better to say, “We need to complete the project by Tuesday. What has to happen to meet that deadline? Whom should we approach? What will cause the biggest hurdle?” Bringing others into the conversation and allowing them a voice makes them more invested in the outcome and helps them shine.Purposely ask some questions for which you know the other people have good and ready answers. It makes them look smart and clever. Click To Tweet
3. Focus On Negative Outcomes.
The most powerful motivating question is “What do you want to steer clear of? When the dust settles, what don’t you want to have happen?” People are more motivated by a negative outcome than a positive one.
If I called you at 3 a.m. and told you, “I bought you four new tires for your car,” you would receive the news less favorably than if I called you at 3 a.m. and said, “I was just driving by your house and I see some kids taking the tires off your car.” Avoiding losing your tires is more motivating than getting new ones — at least, at that time!
4. If Needed, Ask The Same Question Again… And Again… And Again.
Sometimes the first answer isn’t going to give you the complete picture. Ask your question three times, but in three different ways so as not to be tedious and monotonous. You get deeper, truer answers from progressively querying.
First time, “Craig, would you give me more insight into your position on . . .?”
Second time, “Hmm, okay, I get that. What about this consideration?”
Third time, “Hmmm, I’m following you, but I’m still not clear on . . . .”
or “Can you give me an example?”
or “Sorry, I’m slow in getting this, but run it past me one more time.”
or “Give it to me in layman’s terms.”
5. Listen, Listen, Listen.
A key component of asking is to then listen to the answer. Even when you know the answer, it is important to ask people to get their reply—their point of view—first. You want to learn their thinking and test how close or far apart you are.
If you want to influence people you don’t always have control over, you best find out what they want to achieve and what they want to avoid. By asking, you discover if and where there is a dangerous gap between your thinking and theirs. You can’t reach a good solution if you are headed in two different directions.
6. Ask Questions 80% of The Time, Not 100% of The Time.
Asking questions is important, but you will want to volunteer information without being asked so it’s not one way. Keep a balance in the give-and-take. If you only ask, ask, ask—even with sincere inquisitiveness—it can be perceived as distrust.
If you do tend to overtalking, occasionally halt mid-sentence, mid-presentation, mid–heat of the battle, and ask who, what, where, when, why, and how about whatever is being discussed.
7. Don’t Ask Stupid Questions.
Make no mistake, there are stupid questions. They are the ones you ask because you weren’t listening to what someone said and you ask the same thing the person just covered.
It’s like the human resources person who asked in an interview, “What was your biggest accomplishment at XYZ?” The candidate gave some examples of accomplishments, but because the interviewer’s mind was elsewhere, a few minutes later the interviewer asked, “What was your biggest accomplishment at XYZ?” It was a stupid question because the interviewer hadn’t listened to the candidate’s answer, much less listened to herself asking the question.
Good Leaders Ask Good Questions
One universal truism is that leaders stand out from the crowd. In an effort to communicate well—even if you were trained to give answers—you will stand out when you ask questions before giving answers, recommendations, and solutions.
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