If you have back problems because the muscles in your back are weak, what do you do? You strengthen those muscles with specific exercises until you generate the results you want.
If your “questioning muscles” are weak, what do you do? You exercise your questioning muscles until you reach your goal of greater consistency, better results and more confidence.
Instead of asking “why,” experiment by taking what the other person just said and add “how,” “what,” “if,” “who” or “because” to formulate a question. If this takes effort, then you know you are exercising your muscles. Once it becomes easy, it’s time to raise the bar.
Practice your questions every minute of the day unless it offends or serves no direct purpose. It is important to remember that questioning shifts the focus to the other person, and everyone likes attention. No one will ever grow weary of your practicing your questioning and neither will you.
Make sure to:
1. Keep your eyes up
2. Make sure your ratio of questions to statements is at least 50/50
3. Make use of pauses.
Keeping your eyes up helps you catch pieces of information most miss. I’ll never forget the time my son, looking very remorseful after being caught pinching his brother, walked away from my scolding (thinking he was a safe distance from my gaze) not realizing I had kept my eyes on him. A smirk appeared on his face. Had I not kept my eyes on him for just a few extra seconds, I would not have had a second opportunity to successfully teach my son something I thought I had the first time.
When you talk, you hear something you already know. When you don’t talk, there is a good chance you will learn something. Pauses improve your listening as well as impress on other people that you are, in fact, listening.
When you start to practice you will probably feel awkward or clumsy. Don’t worry; the only one aware of what you are doing and what you are feeling is you. Endure and slowly you will notice results.
Steadily increase the number of questions in your conversations and diminish the number of statements you make. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you are able to teach what you know to others. If you can teach a skill, then you truly know it. That’s what you are aiming for.
The result? You will find yourself asking more questions, talking less and actually benefitting more from your interactions, which can make you more effective (win more yeses than before).
For example, your challenges will become simpler because you are harvesting and using ideas besides your own. Your work product improves without additional angst and effort to make it “perfect,” because your increased questions and the help of others in the form of their answers make it “perfect” for you.
Darren Smith is a management consultant, career coach and public speaker. He has done business in 20 countries across 10 industries and has started and sold two companies. He is a graduate of Texas A&M and has university credentials in marketing, international business and executive coaching. His clients include HKS Architects, Staubach Company, the Texas Society of Association Executives, Mrs. Baird’s Bread, and Toyota. His website is www.cimastrategic.com.