Use Questions to Boost Your Communication Results

April 27, 2007

In response to my post about the value of questions in communication, I received a comment asking for specific questions.  This posting is in answer to the comment.

Questions are powerful in a presentation when you are presenting findings or recommendations.  You might begin a presentation recommending steps to increase quality by asking, “If we were to institute just one change to improve quality, what do you think that change would be?” or “If we could make just one change to improve quality by 10%, would you be interested?”  Any time your presentation involves material that might sound like a lecture, try using questions like these to engage the audience.

When you enter a meeting or negotiation, you can ask, “How can we meet both of our goals with this policy?” or “What key things have to happen for you to be satisfied with the outcome of this meeting (or policy or negotiation)?

In a networking situation, one question is especially powerful, “How will I know when I’m talking to someone who is a prospect for you?”  Another choice:  “What types of people are you hoping to meet tonight?”

In sales, questions are the key to finding out how to connect with customers.  For example, “What are the main challenges you are facing in the business right now?” will tell where the customer is willing to invest money.

Finally, in an training environment, questions help to engage participants.  Leading workshops on persuasive communication, I often ask participants, “Do you think persuasion is a science or an art?  Is it something that can be learned?”  This is a perfect way to begin a conversation before I present material based on research.

Questions are a powerful to engage others.  Pay attention to how the persuasive people you know use questions.  Experiment.  Chances are you’ll add some power to your communication!


Do You Know the Value of a Question?

April 24, 2007

Have you ever noticed that compelling communication often starts with a question?  This is because questions can engage a reader or listener in ways that an assertion–no matter how correct–has no power to do.  Frank Luntz, political consultant and author of Words that Work, tells us why: 

“The reason for the effectivenss of questions in communication is quite obvious.  When you assert, whether in politics, business, or day-to-day life, the reaction of the listener depends to some degree on his or her opinion of the speaker.  But making the same statement in the form of a rhetorical question makes the reaction personal–and personalized communication is the best communication.”

The next time you want to attract a listner’s or reader’s attention, it’s worth your time to develp some good questions–not predictable and lame rhetorical questions, but ones that throw a strike toward your audience’s values or trigger real thought.  Sometimes a good question is worth a thousand facts.


Are You Making an Imus-like Mistake?

April 20, 2007

How to Get an Accurate Picture of Your Credibility Rating

Do you have an accurate picture of the credibility that others assign to you?  If not, you are vulnerable to receive a shock.  It happened to Don Imus—it could happen to you!

A key ingredient in perceived credibility is a person’s record.  In defending himself, Imus insists that he is a good person with a good history.  He wants people to know that he has raised millions for charity, that he and his wife run a ranch for kids with cancer and blood diseases, that he has used his influence to raise awareness for autism and other causes.  Imus wants to be judged by the whole of his life, especially the good that he has done. 

Unfortunately, Imus’s record has two sides.  While carrying on his benevolent work, Imus consistently used his show to make harsh and ugly comments about others.  Imus has a long and consistent record of disparaging remarks about individuals and groups.  Some of the remarks can be attributed to comedy; others cannot. 

If Imus wants to be judged by his whole life, then he has to own up to both sides, not just the side that makes him look good. 

Enough about Don Imus—perhaps it’s time to apply his very public lesson to ourselves.  It’s easy to make an Imus-like credibility mistake:  to judge ourselves by our good moments and good intentions while diluting the importance of our less-than-perfect moments.

To get an accurate picture of the credibility that others assign to you, answer the following questions:

  • What’s your track record on words that build others up rather than tear them down—especially when those others are not in the room?
  • What’s your track record of delivering what you promise when you promise it?
  • How often do genuinely listen before pushing for your own point of view?
  • To what extent are you conscientious about giving credit to others for their contributions and ideas?
  • Would your colleagues say you are concerned about their agendas as well as your own?

As you answer the questions, remember your good days and your bad days.  Others will judge your life as a whole.  Make sure you do as well.