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Making an Effort Makes the Difference


Robby

Perhaps another aspect of midwestern sensibility is to be polite when asked questions. Here in Indiana, we want to respond in a friendly way, even if the question isn’t one we’d prefer to answer. That’s why making an effort before you ask the question makes all the difference

Question Mark
© Flickr User wonderferret

This idea isn’t new, but it perhaps came to prominence online in the seminal essay How To Ask Questions the Smart Way by Eric S. Raymond. He writes:

When you ask your question, display the fact that you have done [some research] first; this will help establish that you’re not being a lazy sponge and wasting people’s time. Better yet, display what you have learned from doing these things. We like answering questions for people who have demonstrated they can learn from the answers.

Executive Coach Irene Leonard provides examples of good questions, all of which show interest in understanding the answer instead of just getting one:

What seems to be the trouble?
What do you make of _________?
How do you feel about _____________?
What concerns you the most about _____________?
What will you have to do to get the job done?
What benefits would you like to get out of X?
What is your plan?

There are a few other secrets to asking good questions that involve being prepared. For example, it’s important to be careful to phrase the question in a way that is helpful. If you ask: “Are there any problems with the system?” you invite a response such as “I don’t know” or even, “Sure, there are lots of problems.” That’s because no system is perfect, and in many situations, no one person can know the system entirely.

But that’s not what you’re trying to ask. You really want to know about serious problems, and the impact of those problems. Try: “Are there any serious, urgent problems with the system that you think I should know about?”

Another trick is to model the language that the experts use. If they call it a “migration” don’t call it a “move.” If they have acronyms, find out what they mean and then alternate between using them and saying each word aloud. This shows understanding, which moves the conversation forward.

Help other people to answer your questions by asking better questions. And ask better questions by first doing your homework.

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About the Blogger: Robby Slaughter is a productivity speaker and expert. He is a principal with a AccelaWork, an Indianapolis consulting firm.

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Wed, May 30 2018 » Change Managment and Learning Organization, Self Development

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