Monday, September 26, 2011

Open ended questions

One of the first steps in the active listening process and in any verbal connection you're trying to make with someone including your new boss your new boyfriend/girlfriend or a new friend in general, is to build rapport.  It’s the process of getting to know each other.   The foundation in getting to what your goal is.  The old saying, first impressions last forever to some degree is very true. The first moments of a conversation with someone are the most important. In my opinion the best way to start to build rapport and open up the lines of communication in any situation is to simply ask questions. People love to talk about themselves and the attentive listener is the person they want to talk to.
What becomes important here is what type of questions we ask. The difference between open and closed ended questions is a very important distinction. In these crucial first questions you want your questions to be open-ended. 

You want to try to avoid anything that has a one-word or one response answer such as, “are you feeling ok”, the answer you're going to get is either yes or no and it tells you nothing about where this person is coming from or what direction you need to take the conversation. An example of an open-ended question that that works in a sale situation is something like, “what's motivating you to look for a new car right now”? Even in a social situation were your meeting somebody new for the first time, maybe someone of the opposite sex, something along the lines of, “your job sounds really interesting, how did you get into that type of field”?  In your current relationship, “Tell me why your upset about what happened”? These type of questions lead to more revealing answers and more importantly possibly clues to the type of feelings this person is having, and the feelings are what's important in these in conversations.  Next we will take a look at why feelings are so important when we talk about emotional labeling.  Remember, the most important part of asking open-ended questions, shut up and listen.  Give this a try in your next conversation with a customer, your spouse or a co-worker, let me know how it works.

In crisis situations where I have spoken to suicidal people, the open-ended questions is how I get started, “tell me about why you feel this way right now”.  This is where you let the venting begin. It’s the clue to the emotions, which will lead to the statement I want to hear and how I know my efforts are working, “at least you understand me”.  More to follow…