The French philosopher, Voltaire, stated – “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” The art of compelling conversation is centered on one’s ability to understand, control and present proper questions. Although there are numerous publications on the subject of “asking questions” and there are many question techniques identified, in my opinion and in my work, I find that the first step to asking compelling questions is creating a habit of asking questions! Sounds simple? For a long time, I had taken for granted that asking questions is natural and a redundant topic when teaching conversation skills as I have for nearly 30 years. However, the truth of the matter is, asking questions is a lost art in conversation, let-alone asking appropriate and compelling questions. I recently read an article that stated, when we were a child (under 10-years old), we asked on average 65 questions a day, by the time we became a teenager, we asked on average 40 questions per day; the number of questions we ask on average per day decreases to 6 by the time we reach 40 years of age. It is a troubling thought that the older we get, the less sharp we become at asking questions. I believe the older we get, the less curious we seem to get. We should exercise our curiosity and wonder of why. I also believe that even when we are curious, we still tend to restrain from asking questions because we do not want to be wrong, offensive, or judged for asking a foolish questions. I can appreciate for most of us we were raised by teachers who taught that “there is no such thing as a dumb question.” Sadly, as we progress through life we realize that is not so true. We experience often times when we did indeed ask a question that caused us to feel foolish. I am reminded of a quote that states; “he who asks a dumb question is a fool for a moment, but he who never asks a question is a fool forever.” The point being, when we are actively asking questions – whether good or bad, we can learn to ask more effective questions. When we neglect to ask questions, A) we fail to obtain valuable information and B) we lose an opportunity to learn from what we have either done right or wrong. Furthermore, questions are king in conversation. Without questions, and plenty of them, there is very little chance of accomplishing the necessary connection required to build rapport, trust, empathy and relevance, not to mention the objective. Presentation alone will not achieve the goal, in fact; your presentation has very little to do with achieving the goal. Asking questions early and often will begin to mold the otherwise awkward exchange into a work of art between you and the other person. The question most asked of me when I teach this subject is; what do I say? I would refer you to my website to a get a list of “question ideas” to practice. I also recommend that you prepare a list of questions to ask particular to your program. How do you do this? ASK the people in your office what they say when…, ASK friends and family what would/do you say when…? In your professional occupation, be prepared with a set of questions to ask when speaking with customers or prospects. If you are speaking to a gate-keeper for instance, you might want to say, “can you help direct me to your controller, I need to speak with them regarding a business proposition?” If you are speaking with a decision maker, rather than give your entire pitch, you might ask several questions such as; “what type of work does your company do?” “How long have you been with the organization?” “What is your vision for your company?” “What are your biggest challenges?” “Do you have an idea how to solve those challenges?” My point is, with every question, there will come a response that will provide greater insight and clues to the person you are speaking with. Those clues will give you a heavy advantage to developing a compelling conversation that will lead to productivity and prosperity. Don’t forget to practice, practice, practice!
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