How you ask questions is very important in establishing a good business for good communication. Why, what, how and when are very powerful words? Use them often to seek, either from yourself or others, the answers needed to manage effectively.
Knowing What To Ask
The art of questioning lies in knowing which questions to ask when. Address your first question to yourself: if you could press a magic button and get every piece of information you want, what would you want to know? The answer will immediately help you compose the right questions. If you are planning a meeting, prepare a list of any answers you need to obtain. As the meeting progresses, tick off the answers you receive. If new questions occur to you while others are talking, note them down and raise them later.
When preparing questions in advance, always look at the type of question that best meets your aims. You may want to initiate a discussion, obtain specific information, attain a particular end, or send a command cloaked as a query. However, be aware that prepared questions will rarely be enough – answers to them may be incomplete or may prompt a completely new line of questioning. Keep asking questions until you are satisfied that you have received the answers you require. When asking prepared questions, watch out for clues in the answers that you can follow up later with a new set of questions.
The Right Tone
Your tone of voice is a part of communication in itself – for example, you may convey anger by speaking harshly or sympathy by speaking softly. The wrong tone may generate a counterproductive response, so work on improving your ability to manage your tone of voice. Using a tape recorder, playback your voice. Is there any unintentional sharpness? Is it too conciliatory? Practice until you are happy with how you sound. You can often stir people towards an agreement by using an optimistic and confident tone of voice.
- Ask a specific question if you want to hear a specific answer.
- Use open questions to gain insight into another person’s character, and to invite a response.
- Write a list of questions before you start a meeting.
- Do not be afraid to pause while thinking of your next question.
- Speak in as natural a tone as possible to create a warm environment.