We’ve all done it, said it and been told it, haven’t we? ”what you need to do is” or “what you should do is” etc. Well, in fact, what we should do most of the time is ask a question rather than tell our friends/colleagues/family what it is they should be doing.
Not always easy I know. Time is short and often it seems quicker and easier to just tell rather than ask but just think about when someone last said to you “Now Helen, it’s obvious, what you should do is xyz” and I bet you there was a part of you that was thinking “Grrr, how do you know what I should be doing?”
Imagine if you went to the optician and explained to them you’re finding it a strain to read close work these days or that you can’t see the bus even when it’s at the stop – bus, what bus? And after listening to you for a couple of moments, the optician says “aha, you should try these”, as they take off their own glasses and hand them to you saying “now then, these work a treat for me, really great. Use these glasses and you’ll see much better. I know I do.”
Steven Covey uses this example in his brilliant book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and in the chapter entitled “Seek First to Understand” he poses the question – Whose Glasses Are You Wearing?
It’s good to question yourself before you decide if the advice you’re given, however well-meaning, fits for you – especially if the advice-giver is less than a great example of a success in this area themselves! Does this sound familiar?
Good old questions generally help people so much more than dishing out advice ”tell me a bit more about that” or “what else have you noticed?” or “when did it start?” etc. This is also a much nicer way of being in the world rather than being a ‘Quick Fixer’ or – even worse – an ‘Out-Trumper’; ”Well if you think you’ve got a problem, try this for size, blah, blah blah” – someone who tries to out-trump you with their problems! Crikey, no thank you.
Operating in this open, inquisitive and curious way does 3 very strategic and positive things when you’re working or socialising with people – or both:
- It keeps you open to finding outwhat’s actually happening below the surface;
2. It buys you time to decide if – or how – you want to help or jump in;
3. It shows the other person you’re listening to them rather than just waiting to jump in.
There’s always a rub, though. At a party recently, after asking a chap (who shall remain nameless but let’s just call him Hugh R Dull) a number of questions about himself and his connection to the host, his career etc – after about 20 minutes of centre-stage droning on about himself I finally asked him “so Hugh, what would you like know about me?” He was, momentarily, stumped. Result. Not for long however but long enough for me to say – “Oh, and Hugh, is that the time? I must go and top up my glass and let you circulate.”
Enough said. You may not always want to give advice or wear other people’s glasses but you do need an exit strategy.
Let’s make it your time to shine, in your own way. When would now be a better time to go for Promotion, Recognition and Rewards?
Here’s a helpful, immediate Gift for you. Q is for Questions – A downloadable PDF of a chapter from my # 1 best-selling book The A to Z of Being Understood.
Use the chapter to lead conversations, to be more compelling when you first meet someone and – crucially – connect with colleagues, clients, customers by the power of your confident questions.