The Courage Of Questions

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Many of us think of communication as the delivery of words, information, ideas, opinions.

And this is accurate – a Merriam-Webster definition of communication is “information transmitted or conveyed.” But what about the other important element in a successful exchange of ideas?

Asking questions.

Questioning is courageous. It takes courage to request information, help, or clarification. Show that you’re self-confident and invested in the content of a meeting by saying, “I don’t quite understand. Can you please help me?”

Revealing to a room full of people that you need help is vulnerable and brave. It’s also important for all levels of professionals to adopt this crucial aspect of communication. Why?

Well, we don’t know everything! Learning is a life long journey, and asking people for information or help understanding a concept allows us to grow.

It’s respectful to others. It’s hard to build a strong connection with a self-focused “know it all.” Asking shows that you’re interested in the other person’s perspective. Whether you’re curious about someone’s weekend plans, or their views on the future of self-driving cars, people enjoy being asked for their thoughts, experiences, and opinions.

It puts our humbleness on display and encourages others to do the same. In today’s information-driven business environment, it can feel like there’s an unrelenting pressure to be the expert in the room and possess all the answers. Some of us take that pressure too far, dominating conversations with breathless run on statements that don’t allow others to participate. We over-talk our points to demonstrate our depth of knowledge, and interrupt others when we have something “important to add.” Freeing ourselves of this pressure and asking information from others, allows for a more balanced meeting that feels increasingly like a conversation and less like a presentation. Does anyone really want to attend another presentation?

The next time you’re in a meeting or responding to an email, check your talk impulse at the door. Spend equal time considering, what can I say and what can I ask of others?

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