Have you had a chance to listen to the PROFANITY podcast yet? Several of you told me that you learned a lot. ME TOO!
Moving on…. Have you ever heard that great communicators ask great questions?
In this week’s blog, we’re improving our communication skills by focusing on QUESTIONS: types of Qs; tips to help you ask the best Qs; and of course, quotes about Qs! (I found some great quotes from a few disparate and famous people that you may know….) Last – I also have an ASK for YOU…
WHY ASK Qs??
It’s true; the best communicators are typically skilled at asking great Qs. Great communicators “seek first to understand, then to be understood,” (Stephen Covey). The best way to understand what’s going on in others’ minds is to ask Qs …and listen.
So personally, we use Qs to debrief with our partner or family at the end of the day. Good friends always ask great Qs. Asking the right Qs can also help us with our purchase decisions – be it what restaurant to go to, what car to buy, or in our jobs, when we are seeking information from a prospective supplier.
Professionally, we use Qs when we’re interviewing a candidate or when we ourselves are being interviewed. We may also use Qs when we request a status update, or when we are questioning a counterpart in a negotiation.
5 TYPES OF Qs ??♀️
While we should all strive to ask more Qs, it also helps to know what types of Qs to ask. Certain types of Qs can be more or less appropriate, depending on the context:
1.) Yes/No Qs should be avoided by interviewers, like podcasters or journalists. But they can certainly be effective with teenager inquisitions and in a court-of law – right? (“Did you or did you not…?”) They can also be a good way to open a conversation, as long as we have a follow-up question. So we can start with, “Did you have a good day?” or “Did you enjoy the conference?” and follow-up with “What was the best part?”
2.) Rhetorical Qs are one of my pet-peeves. When someone asks me a rhetorical Q, it feels patronizing and condescending. You know, the “how could you?” or “does money grow on trees?” Rhetorical Qs are not asked to seek an answer. Rather, they are asked for dramatic effect or to make a point. Rhetorical Qs can also be poetic – or funny. Like, “wait, am I on candid camera?” or “does this sound like a rhetorical Q?”
3.) Leading Qs, like Yes/No Qs, are also no-no’s for interviewers. It drives me crazy when I hear interviewers ask leading Qs on the radio or on podcasts. (If you ever hear me ask a leading Q, please call me on it!) Instead of “do you mean…?”, try “what do you mean by…?” Instead of “are you trying to say….?”, try “how would you summarize your view…?”
4.) Open-ended questions may be the gold standard of Qs. “WHY…”, “HOW…” and “Tell me about…” are all effective ways to initiate an open-ended question.
5.) The Command Q isn’t technically a Q at all, but it does demand an answer. “Tell me about how…” As you can imagine, tone of voice is critical with the command Q. It can be curious and friendly, or it can be threatening!!!
5 TIPS FOR ASKING THE BEST Qs
? 1.) Focus. Ask one Q at a time. Focus on the answer you’re hearing, and think about what to ask next.
? 2.) Think hierarchy. Start with general questions, then move to more specific. This applies to most contexts, be it when you are interviewing someone for a job, or when you are asking someone about their day.
? 3.) Ask open-ended & avoid leading Qs. (see above) Use neutral wording. Instead of “are you saying that…?” or “do you agree that…?”, try “can you elaborate?” or “what do you think about…?”
?♀️ 4.) Repeat the person’s words back to them. I learned this from Professor Jerry Zaltman, when I was his student. It takes practice, but it’s very effective. So if someone says, “I felt so ashamed,” you can ask, “You felt so ashamed?”, or even just, “ashamed?”. If someone says, “It was horrific,” you can ask, “horrific?”
? 5.) Don’t interrupt. Give the person ample time to answer. In fact, cherish those awkward silences! ⌛️Some of the most famous interviews are a result of the interviewer encouraging the interviewee to fill-in the silence with the good stuff!
? ? ?
Here is a list of the top-ten TV interviews of all-time. Can you guess #1?
Yes, it was Oprah (of course!!!). The interview took place over 25 years ago, in 1993, when she interviewed Michael Jackson. Note Oprah’s exceptional skill – she is focused, she starts general and moves in to more specific, she asks open-ended and avoids leading Qs, she cherishes the awkward silences, and she frequently repeats Michaels’ words back to him.
Does Oprah rock, or what?
(Yes, that was rhetorical!)
Now – THE ASK.
I have a favour to ask. Can you please reply to me with your Qs?
I’ve been asked:
- ?how did you get into podcasting?
- ?how do you come up with Talk About Talk topics?
- ?where do you record the podcast?
WHAT Qs DO YOU HAVE FOR ME?
Dr. Andrea Wojnicki
Founder & Chief Talker – Talk About Talk Inc.
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