When I tell people in my workshops that ‘questioning’ is a poor listening habit, many are taken aback. They have been told that when you ask questions, you encourage the speaker and that is the way to go with your listening. People assume that questioning is a good way of showing that you are interested in the speaker and what they have to say.
The problem I have with questions is that they tend to steer the conversation in the direction of what the questioner thinks or has in mind. I have found that questions often end up as a channelizing mechanism.
Listening is more effective if you let the speaker make their point in their own way. They know what they want to say after all, and you don’t as a listener. Don’t push your own questions on the speaker. Most people prefer to talk without being bombarded for details, at least until they have expressed their basic idea. In fact, it takes time for most speakers to effectively articulate their thoughts and the act of speech in itself is a way of clarifying in their own minds what they want to communicate.
Curiosity kills the cat they say, so don’t let your curiosity effectively hijack the conversation.
Refrain from, or at least try and limit, your questions as the speaker’s message unfolds. When you see that the speaker is finished, it may then be appropriate to ask a few questions to fill in important details or to shed light on whatever is unclear to you. Maybe even before that, use paraphrasing to check your understanding.
Although questioning has productive uses, it inhibits communication when used too soon.
Questions are incredibly useful and a companion tool to listening. At work, they can help you learn a new process, discover what is needed by a prospective customer, understand the reasons for a customer’s dissatisfaction, determine whether or not the person you are interviewing is the best candidate for the job, or in a team meeting uncover the reason for last month’s slump in productivity and business performance.
You must learn to ask insightful questions as part of your listening process that may well lead to a breakthrough in that conversation.
Asking well-targeted questions can be important in one’s personal life too. Effective questioning will help you acquire the knowledge needed for important decisions like dealing with a child’s problems at school, understanding your partner’s expectations and needs, uncovering the reasons for problems in your relationship, evaluating options, while making major purchase decisions, and making sound investments, and many more.
In hindsight, you may realize that most of our listening in conversations has more to do with “us” than about the “speaker”
I am sure your mind would have wanted to question what I have just mentioned. What’s the purpose? Is it to truly understand? Reflect.
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