“Question everything”, Albert Einstein once said. His advice made sense as most people do not ask many questions in conversations. Yet, we can learn so much from it.

Those people who do ask questions, tend to be more liked. We all remember conversations at birthday parties when a person showed genuine interest in our life. We immediately liked the person and had a great time.

When people feel they are heard, they are willing to open up more and share information. Sharing information can bring us much further than hearing our own story, which we already are familiar with. Therefore we should become more aware of the fact that asking questions will bring us further. This can be extremely useful for managers. Let’s see how questioning can add value to building a stronger team and organization.

The power of questioning within organizations

Questioning is a powerful tool within organizations:

  • it stimulates innovation, which is only possible by exchanging ideas;
  • it bonds, as people who know more about each other will cooperate better;
  • it can mitigate unforeseen business risks, by sharing information and uncovering possible hazards.

All of these advantages contribute to a manager’s success. So knowing this, why do we not ask each other more? Often a manager might feel he is intruding, considered rude or incompetent for asking questions. Other times we just don’t care or prefer to share our own story.

Whatever the reason, questioning is underestimated, and we should get over our objections and start asking questions in our business conversations.

Being a good questioner

Being a good questioner is walking a fine line: you do not want to be seen as the interrogating manager. You wish to be an equal counterpart, with which employers are willing to share information. We will give you some tips how to be a good questioner.

  • Ask more questions

The first tip is to be aware of yourself in a conversation: are you sharing your story or are you asking questions? It all starts with asking more questions to the other person. However, be aware of the number of questions you ask. You want to have a conversation, not an interrogation.

  • Be a good listener

The most important rule of being a good questioner is being a good listener. If you are only besieging your conversational partner with questions, it will not work. You will achieve the opposite: he will close up on you and withhold information. Make sure you are an interlocutor. Which you will be if you follow the next tip.

  • Use follow-up questions

If you are truly listening, follow-up questions will come to mind while talking to each other. These questions make a conversation more natural. Even more important: your conversational partner will feel you are interested in what he is telling and want to know more.

  • Lead the conversation with the type of questions

The tone and type of questions will have an impact on the attitude of the person opposite you. If you are asking open questions, a person will tend to tell you more. It will create an open atmosphere. However, when the situation is tensed, or people are not willing to share information, a yes-or-no question can bring more to the table. Use the right type of question according to the situation.

  • Find the right tone

Also, the tone will influence the attitude. Research showed that people are more open when the tone is casual, rather than official.

  • Build up the right order

The sequence of your questions will set the mood as well. If your goal is to retrieve sensitive information from your counterpart, starting with tough questions first will open him up. Research (by Leslie K. John) showed that people reveal more sensitive information when questions are asked in decreasing order of intrusiveness. However, if the first question is too sensitive, the other might feel offended which will lead to the opposite effect.

When your goal is to build a relationship you better start with less sensitive questions and build up from there.

  • Be aware of group dynamics

When you are having a group conversation, you will notice participants will follow each other. If one person is open and willing to share personal or sensitive information, it will have a positive effect on the others. The opposite is also valid: if one or two persons are unwilling to open up, the others will not share much either.

Are you asking the right questions?

Being a manager, you want your employees to share information and see you as an open-minded conversational partner. The information they share with you might trigger new ideas, uncover business opportunities or prevent financial losses. Therefore, being a good questioner is essential for being a successful manager. However, being a good questioner is a delicate balance.

Do you want to know if you have the right skills for being a good questioner? Are you asking the right questions to hear the information you would like to know? Contact us to learn more.

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