William Cooke          


International, Expat and English Communication Coaching for Improving You

A Coach's Guide: Three Better Habits When Asking Questions

I decided to put out a short piece on three easy tips to improve question making. I like this format because a couple of tips are easily memorised and actionable. There are so many ways to improve your question making it wouldn’t be worth listing them all because the information would be lost. So, if you are new to improving your communication, it’s worth just taking one of these at a time and starting to do them until they become second nature.

Listen to Dale Carnegie

"Ask questions that people will be interested in answering" 

this is a fairly self-explanatory piece of advice. The fact I am reiterating it the best part of a century later is a testament to how much we avoid it. In my last piece, I talked about breaking automaticity. This is tied together. Automatic questions aren’t interesting, they are tedious and draining. Ask about the things that really inspire this person. People love sharing information and many love sharing themselves. Make it easy for them to do that.

Be interested in the answers. 

The logical follow on I offered before on a LinkedIn post… If you don’t want to know, don’t ask. But the thing is, you should want to know. People are best treated as individuals who might just know something you don’t. This exchange of information is the basis of our societies. Sometimes it leads to theft of ideas, over-confessions, any number of bad things, but sharing really has more benefits than drawbacks. 

So, what’s the best way to discover those things this person might know that you don’t? What’s the best way of getting that information out? And of making it a pleasant and healthy experience for both? 

Open-ended questions. Give the person room to answer, you don’t want something with a ‘yes or no’ because who wants to listen to that over and over? No one even wants to answer it over and over. Open those questions up and wait for the enlightening answers to come rushing in!

Stop with  “why?” 

One caveat to the open-ended questions. No justification. 

"'Why' is the first thing you heard from your parents when you messed up… It's what you hear when you hurt someone you love. When something terrible happens, we ask God this very question."

It’s basically designed to make you defensive. It forces you to justify. Nobody enjoys a question where they feel. I remember a very negative session I had with a coach who constantly made me justify with his questions (not sure how intentional this was) I spent the entire time wondering why the hell I had to explain myself to this person, not reaching my own conclusions and growing. Needless to say, he wasn’t my coach for long...

“Why” has its places, unless you know them well it’s worth staying clear.

three better habits with a woman covering her face with a book with a question mark

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