“The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.”
Have you ever struggled to effectively communicate with someone?
You offer advice, but it is not taken. You ask why someone did something, and it is met with a defensive answer. You share your thoughts and feelings, but they are not well received. If you can relate to any of these scenarios, I’m excited to encourage you today to try a new, more effective way to communicate.
As many of you know, this past March I launched my own coaching & consulting business geared towards the niche areas of life purpose discovery, career management, and leadership development. Without a doubt, one of the things I love most about coaching is its ability to draw out what is already inside someone through the process of asking powerful questions.
Take for example a situation in which I recently found myself. I had the opportunity to get together with a group of girlfriends, and as often happens, one of my friends began to share about a particular situation she was trying to navigate. Hearing her out, others began to share their thoughts and offer advice. Everyone in the room had an opinion regarding just what she should do. After shrugging off all suggestions and saying she just didn’t think any of the ideas given were right for her, I let my curiosity guide me and began to simply ask further questions regarding her dilemma. The questions caused her to think, and after further processing her problem, she was able to readily identify the next step she felt compelled to take. Even better, because it was her idea, she was committed to follow through.
Consider a second example. This past year my husband took a job with a new organization and I had the opportunity to help him process his decision through the use of questions. Now, when he first asked what I thought he should do, my natural inclination was to tell him in great detail exactly what I thought. However, rather than falling into this old pattern, I was able to ask questions that allowed him to process the choice and ultimately make the right decision for him and our family. I simply used questions to draw out what he already knew to be the right choice.
How about you? In what relationships or contexts do you find it difficult to effectively communicate?
At home, work, with a family member, friend, coworker, or perhaps in a volunteer or social setting? If you find effective communication is not taking place, I would like to offer you a challenge. The next time you find yourself talking to that person, or in that situation, before offering your own thoughts, feelings, or advice, simply ask a sincere question, listen, stay curious, and then ask another follow-up question. You get the pattern.
So what questions should you ask, you wonder?
While it will largely depend on the specifics of your situation, a few fantastic general questions proposed in the wonderful book The Coaching Habit are:
What’s on your mind?
And what else?
What’s the real challenge here for you?
What do you want?
How can I help?
If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?
and while not a part of this list, one of my all-time personal favorites:
How’s that working for you?
Perhaps more so than what questions to use, however, are a few simple ground rules to keep in mind when asking questions:
Avoid “why” questions. Beginning a question with “why” simply puts the other person on the defensive.
Ask only open ended questions, make sure your question allow room for more than one word answers.
Stay away from leading questions. Leading questions are those phrased in such a way that implies a required answer within the question, in other words you are putting words in the other person’s mouth.
Whether you are at home, work, or in your community, you will be amazed at how your communication with others can improve if you simply talk less and ask more.
How can you begin to effectively communicate by asking questions today?