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How to ask good questions

Number 1 Communication Rule: Listen First

Being a good listener is timeless advice, and it has been eighty years since Dale Carnegie mentioned being a good listener in his classic ‘How To Win Friends And Influence People’.

The advice is still rock solid, telling us to listen with intent while asking interesting questions that the other person would love to answer.

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How to ask good questions

How to ask good questions

https://nesslabs.com/good-questions

nesslabs.com

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Key Ideas

The Little Known Skill Of Conversations

Asking good, effective questions is a powerful but little known tool to get the most helpful information, facilitate learning and improve interpersonal bonding.

In many cases, asking the right questions depends on complex dynamics and type of interaction, but there are some general guidelines that can commonly be applied to the conversation.

Knowing Why You Communicate

If you are distracted during a conversation or are asking ‘filler’ questions, the other person will lose interest.

Be genuinely interested and frame questions that help gather maximum facts and opinions about your interlocutor.

Number 1 Communication Rule: Listen First

Being a good listener is timeless advice, and it has been eighty years since Dale Carnegie mentioned being a good listener in his classic ‘How To Win Friends And Influence People’.

The advice is still rock solid, telling us to listen with intent while asking interesting questions that the other person would love to answer.

Interrupting With Care

We often interrupt an ongoing conversation and say what comes in our mind, and have to be mindful of that.

Statements can also be detrimental to our purpose of building a relationship. It is better to end the sentence with a question and let the other person speak.

Choosing The Right Words

Works are like keys that can lock or unlock minds. Use a neutral tone combined with the right words, avoiding conflicting or loaded ones.

It is also a good idea to keep the questions open-ended. Closed-ended questions often sound loaded or biased to the interlocutor.

Build On The Information

Random questions should be avoided, and a hierarchy should be built that follows general questions with specific ones while asking only one thing at a time.

It helps to use the new information that you get from an answer to frame your next question, creating a natural flow.

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How to ask better questions
  • Ask open-ended questions: they unlock more information from people
  • Ask “why” 3 times:  the easiest way to deepen the level of a conversation
  • Ask about
Clarify the question

Make sure you're not assuming what you're being asked and take the  time to really understand the question.

Insert parts of the question in your answers, but never repeat the negative la...

Take thinking time

When you're faced with difficult questions, make sure you buy yourself enough time to determine how you want to respond.

Repeating of rephrasing the question could give you some extra time for thinking about how you want to answer.

Answer part of the question

Find a part of the question you are comfortable answering if answering the whole question is not an option.

This may sometimes be enough to satisfy the other person.

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Connecting with an audience through a screen
Connecting with an audience through a screen

Most of us have switched to working primarily online since March, and the initial excitement of virtual happy hours is long gone.

When having a video conference, keep in mi...

Sharing stories

Connect with your audience from the start by sharing a relevant story and asking for their participation.

Choose a story that is more personal than you would tell in a regular work setting. The barriers between work and life are coming down and you can use that to your advantage.

Large vs smal online audience
  • If the group is small, ask a question from the start and turn your presentation into a conversation.
  • If the audience is large, bring audience members together through polls, “raised hands” in response to yes-or-no questions, and the chatbox.

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Stressful Conversations
Stressful Conversations

Human beings love to gossip, chatter and jest, but some conversations can be stressful, confusing, and even embarrassing. To avoid conflicts and the avoidable pain it can bring, we tend to dodge a ...

The Three Basic Stress-Inducing Conversations
  • While giving bad news to others, like giving feedback or firing someone, one can find it difficult to strike the right note.
  • When a small sentence or even a word can be taken as a negative provocation and trigger an adverse reaction. Suddenly the conversation becomes intensely charged emotionally.
  • A conversation where one resorts to profanity, manipulation, shouting to thwart the other person.
Preparing For A Stressful Conversation
  1. Be fully aware of one’s own vulnerabilities and shortcomings.
  2. Anticipate any specific problem that may occur, and try to rehearse it if possible.
  3. Understand that words are key that can make or break your conversation, and try to fine-tune and neutralize your phrasing.

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Being “too nice” can cause you problems
Being “too nice” can cause you problems

You're asked to do something, and you feel you should say no. However, if you say no, you'll be resented, so you are tempted to say yes. If you say yes, you're going to be frustrated wi...

Saying NO without guilt
  • Notice how often people around you say no to each other every day. Also watch how others handle these situations.
  • When you feel pressured for a yes, ask for time. It will allow you to calm down and evaluate whether you really want to do it ( "I need to check my calendar; I'll get back to you"/ "I've got to think about that; I'll let you know.")
  • Saying no comfortably requires you to think what your values are. When you live by clear principles, it's easier to make decisions. People are more likely to respect your responses.
  • Keep telling them that you can't help them. Then stay on repeat, even if they bring new angles of reasoning.
  • When you want to help but can't commit to the specifics, make a counteroffer. You can offer someone a different resource or the name of someone else who might help.
Over-communicate
Assume that people don’t know what you’re thinking. And you’ll find the more you communicate with others, the more they will reciprocate. 

As...

Share Frequently and Get Feedback

Constantly send screenshots and ideas. Give your team a glimpse into your head throughout the day so they can see your creative process. 

Share your unfinished work in progress. A single reply from a teammate can steer your entire project in a better direction. Get feedback on your work early on so you can evolve sooner.

Build Trust

Build trust in your team by constantly reminding them how dependable you are. 

You can do this by being the first one to respond in threads, providing your feedback, leading initiatives, and not just delivering your work on time, but delivering it early.

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Being A Great Listener
  • Focus on what’s being said instead of how it affects you or what you want to say.
  • Put away your phone. It’s rude and multitasking takes away from comprehension.
Listening influences up to 40% of a leader’s job performance

Beyond the spoken words, the tone of voice, body language, and what isn’t said also convey valuable information.

But most people overrate their listening skills. 

Alfred Brendel
Alfred Brendel

“The word listen contains the same letters as the word silent.”

Having An Open Mind
Having An Open Mind

Being open-minded is a quality that makes us receptive to a diverse range of ideas, arguments and perspectives that may not align with our own.

If we are not open-minded, w...

Closed-Minded People

They are the individuals that only entertain their existing viewpoints, not being receptive to new ideas and previously unknown beliefs.

Having strong beliefs is not an indicator of a closed mind. One can have strong convictions and yet be empathetic towards others who have a different viewpoint.

Cognitive Dissonance

When a new piece of information that we learn from ourselves conflicts with our existing beliefs, and we are unable to deny the authenticity of the new idea, we experience Cognitive Dissonance.

If we are able to revise and update our outdated or incorrect belief patterns, we move towards learning and personal growth.

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Albert Einstein

"It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education. "

Albert Einstein
Curiosity declines with age

Children are extremely curious. They keep asking, "why?" and explore new things just because they want to know.

But research shows that during the schooling years, curiosity steadily declines, and as adults, we fall into fixed and convenient thought patterns.

The mechanics of curiosity

Research around curiosity found that children at age 5 scored 98% on a creativity test. When the same children took the test at age 10, only 30% scored well on the test. By age 15, only 12% of the same children did well. Less than 2% of adults are defined as creative based on their answer to this standardised test.

Science suggests this decrease in curiosity could be caused when we feel there's no gap between what we know and what we want to know, so we just stop being curious.

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