Posts Tagged ‘Questions’

I love it when my dog tilts her head in obvious confusion and wonder about something I say or do.  She doesn’t pretend to understand and act naturally as though to say “Oh yeah, master, I hear ya; been there, done that.”  No, she just puts her confusion out there for the world to see with an obvious head tilt.

People need to do more of that themselves when they don’t understand.  Oh, I don’t care if you actually tilt your head and try to look like a confused dog or not (although that would make for unmistakable body language to help the less perceptive), but I do care that attempts at communication succeed.  Pretending you understand when you do not helps nobody.

While body language or tone of voice may well communicate lack of understanding, it may be necessary at times to be more obvious and ask for clarity’s sake.  How many business meetings have ended with people nodding their heads and then walking out the door only to ask their coworkers for clarification later because they were too embarrassed to admit before others they didn’t understand something?  How many times have we acted on some understanding that was actually a misunderstanding, resulting in time wasted or unnecessary tension in relationships?

Communicating effectively is more important than silly pride that sometimes gets in the way of asking for clarification.  You can save yourself a lot of time wasted going down a wrong path if you first get a clear picture of the path expected.  Backtracking always wastes valuable time.

I confess that there are times when I fail to ask clarifying questions, especially if it seems like everyone else in the room fully understands.  Who wants to appear to be the dunce?  Yet, I have learned that making sure communication is complete and effective trumps the temporary risk of not looking as smart as you want others to think you are.

Thanks, Callie, for tonight’s head tilt that resulted in leap year lesson #333 – Don’t pretend to understand when you don’t.

Great conversationalists are not people who talk the most, but those who ask questions that get others talking.

For many people, their favorite subject is themselves. That isn’t a criticism. It’s just an acknowledgement that we like to talk about what matters to us, and all of us care about ourselves, what be believe and what we are passionate about. We welcome questions from others that give us an excuse to say what we think, to tell some story or to share our expertise.

A couple of years ago I remember seeing a gadget advertised online that, when worn around the neck while in a group of people, would calculate the percentage of the conversation dominated by the one wearing it. I can’t imagine that there were too many people actually willing to wear it themselves, although I’m sure many of us could think of others we’d like to have wear it from time to time.

As someone who has always scored as an introvert on personality inventories, I am only comfortable and fairly decent at conversation with those I have come to know and trust over time. It’s hard for me to strike up conversations with strangers and keep it going unless I ask a lot of questions.

Imagine two scenarios. In both scenarios, person A talks 90% of the time while person B only talks 10% of the time. The difference in whether this is a good conversation or not depends on the wishes of both participants involved.

In scenario one, if person A talked 90% of the time and person B wanted to talk more but could only rarely get a word in, this wasn’t a good conversation and person B won’t want to be around person A much.

In scenario two, however, if person A talked 90% of the time because person B asked questions and encouraged person A to talk, then it was a great conversation. Both parties got what they wanted.

What is needed is the ability to discern what the situation is and adjust as needed. Don’t dominate conversations uninvited. People will enjoy being around you more if you get them talking instead.

Leap year lesson #57 is For great conversation, ask questions.