Food for Thought-How to Ask Better Questions

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Would you like some help asking better questions? Interested in improving your listening skills. Here are a few exercises that might prove handy.

How can you ask better questions? How can you ask better questions of those you interact with to learn and connect more deeply with them and the world around you? What’s it like to move beyond simply “taking it all in” and interacting?
You never know who you’re sitting beside or who is across from you in this meeting. Other than the usual perfunctory ice breakers, how can you learn more about the people you’re with and the world around you?

Asking good questions is about being able to use your powers of observation (listening, seeing) to encourage another person to open up.

1. The first question to ask is: “What do you want to know?” Do you want to know about someone’s family, friends, work, or something related to a common project? Whatever it is, you need a starting point.

a. Common interests
b. Offer them the opportunity to begin to tell their own story, see where the conversation leads
c. Do they have a vision for this program, project, or idea that would like to share?

2. The second crucial component to asking better questions is to develop better listening skills. Many people call this skill “active” listening.

a. Look at the person speaking
b. Try to clear your mind of distractions
c. Listen completely to what the other person is saying. Don’t start thinking about what you’re going to say as a reply. (This is exceptionally hard). If you’re focusing on what you’re going to say, you’re not listening to them.
d. Use your body language to let them know you’re listening. Again, don’t go over the top with this but remember things like posture, eye contact, nodding, all of those subtle things that let the speaker know you are paying attention.

3. The first questions you can ask are those which clarify what you’ve just heard. It’s a good way to get the other person to elaborate and make sure their points are clear.

a. You could ask, “What I just heard you say was?….”
b. Did I understand you correctly to have said?
c. It sounds like I’m hearing this…..is that correct?

Questions like this encourage the speaker to summarize their own message and provide the opportunity for you to begin asking them questions based off the subject matter they provided. Questions such as these indicate your interest in the topic and demonstrate your desire to be as clear as possible when formulating your response or asking other questions.

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