Asking questions is more effective than trying to know all the answers, says Andrew Sobel, author of Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others.
The right questions “make people like you, trust you, and want to work with you.” Meaning: Questions can be a savvy tool for getting what you need from others.
Become a master questioner by knowing when to pose these “power questions”:
1. “What’s the most important thing we should be discussing today?”
When to ask it: You notice, as you’re talking to someone, that she begins fidgeting and sneaking glances elsewhere. You’ve lost her.
The question instantly connects you with what really matters to her, and allows her to see you as someone who is relevant to her work.
“Even if your agenda doesn’t get met, hers will,” asserts Sobel. “And then she will want to enthusiastically reciprocate. In business, it’s critical to be seen as advancing the other person’s agenda of essential priorities and goals. When time is spent together on issues that are truly important to both parties, the relationship deepens and grows.”
2. “What do you think?” Or, “Can you tell me more?”
When to ask it: This power question is useful when building trust or trying to show someone that you care about what he has to say.
“There’s an anecdote I love about a woman who has dinner, in the same month, with two great rival British statesmen of the 19th century, Gladstone and Disraeli,” says Sobel.
“When asked to compare the two men she says, ‘After my dinner with Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in the world.’ And then she adds, ‘After my dinner with Mr. Disraeli, I felt as though I were the cleverest woman in all of England!’
3. “What is your question?”
When to ask it: To cut through the “blah, blah, blah” and create more authentic conversations. A rambler may not react well to the question, but it will definitely force him to clarify what he needs from you.
4. “Why do you do what you do?”
When to ask it: To transform a conversation. When people seriously consider the answer to this question, the room lights up with passion.
“When you unveil the true why of someone’s work and actions—when you get them to start sentences with ‘I love to’ or ‘I get excited when’—you will find passion, energy, and motivation,” Sobel says.
5. “What would you like to know about me?”
When to ask it: In response to the request, “Tell me about yourself.” Before you begin elaborating on everything from your work history to your obsession with Charles Dickens’ books—and potentially boring the listener to tears—find out what the other person really wants to know.
Tip: Access more tips on “power talk” at "Power up your persuasiveness and overcome their doubts."
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