There are two major stumbling blocks to effective communication.
The first stumbling block is in the ‘art’ of communication:
Because we have been communicating since we were about 18 months old we believe it must be simple and that we must be very good at it by now.
It’s true, conceptually communication is simple.
Communication is a blend of ‘science’ and ‘art’. The ‘science’ or structure of communication is simple – you ask questions, you listen, you put forward your view, you respond, you reach an agreement or achieve an outcome.
The ‘art’ of communication can be the difficult part. Often we know the outcome we want but we neglect to ask ourselves ‘what’s the best way to get this outcome with this person?’
We tend to communicate in the way that’s best for us, rather than in the way that’s best for them.
The second stumbling block is our habits:
Take a simple, but very powerful change of habit – asking open questions rather than closed questions. We already know we should ask open questions, unfortunately we tend to be much better at knowing we should than actually doing it!
So how do you unlearn the habit of closed questions and learn the habit of open questions.
Over many years of coaching people in effective communication we have seen that two very simple questions are pure gold.
1. Start all your questions with ‘What ….?’
Test this yourself right now, you can ask almost anything with a ‘what’ question.
- ‘What happened in the meeting today?’ (as opposed to ‘was the meeting ok?’)
- ‘What’s your view about….?’ (as opposed to ‘do you think …?)
- ‘What do you think might happen after that?’ ‘What would you like to try now?’ (as opposed to ‘would you like to try?’ and then we feel annoyed that the person says no!)
- ‘What options do we have?’ (as opposed to ‘do we have any other options?)
2. Use the very powerful ‘pseudo-question’ ‘Tell me more about ….’
Use this when you want a person to give more detail or when you want to probe more deeply.
This is also a brilliant ‘question’ when you disagree with someone. So often when we disagree our response is to say ‘no’ and then put forward our counter argument. This can lead to a debate, however it rarely leads to an outcome both parties are happy with. As proof of this, think how many times you say or hear ‘well, let’s just agree to disagree.’
If you want to influence someone they first need to feel understood. Asking ‘tell me more about …’ helps the person to feel understood. Interestingly it also helps you to understand whythey believe what they believe which gives you a much better chance of influencing or persuading them.
Try unlearning the habit of asking the closed questions we all ask most of the time and replace them with ‘What ….?’ and ‘Tell me more about …’
Ask these questions exclusively for 2 weeks and you’ll see already that you have become a better communicator and therefore gain better outcomes.
Please feel free to share your successes with us – we love to see people make changes that impact the way they work, achieving much more and with a lot less stress (whenever a conversation ‘goes wrong’ you feel a level of frustration or anxiety).
Enjoy having better conversations, where communication is real and you gain better results and build stronger relationships.
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