How do you communicate? Do you answer or ask questions or both?

I have always been the type of person who is highly aware of people’s communication styles, and the way they interact with others. Throw in an intriguing accent, and I’m fascinated by listening to what someone is saying. However, it’s not just what they are saying that I am paying attention to. It’s the method they are using to communicate that I notice. 

What I mean by noticing how someone communicates has more to do with the way they are interacting during the conversation. In other words, if I were to simplistically categorize a common way that people converse, it would be to place them in one to three categories. 

The first category is the type of person who is a good listener, and the second category is the type of person who asks questions, followed by the third category of someone who has a balanced approach of both listening and asking questions. However, most people fall into the first two categories, and more often the majority play the role of listener.  

Consider some recent conversations you have had. Which of the three categories would you say you embodied from a communication perspective? Chances are good that you were the talker. In fact, it is much easier to play this role than it is to the be one asking questions. Why? Because when someone is asking you questions, they are typically thinking about how to actively engage with you. This takes both skill and effort, and not everyone is polished at doing this. Or, aware of the fact they have not fully developed their skills of asking questions yet. 

Let’s take a common situation you have or will find yourself in. You are at a social engagement, and you may or may not know the majority of the people there. Sure, you will easily be able to talk to the people you know, maybe not, but more importantly, how will you handle interacting with the people you have not met before? Do you have a common set of questions you will ask them? Perhaps a handful of them? What happens when you run out of the questions you will be asking the person? Do you wrap up the conversation and move on to talk to someone else?

Perhaps the person you were talking to was skilled at asking questions, and was able to go beyond the common set of questions you would typically ask. When you come across someone like this, the conversation tends to flow well, and you feel actively engaged in a lively discussion. If the questions you are fielding are about you, the conversation could go on for hours. However, in this scenario, are you aware of the fact you are not balancing out the conversation? Did you in fact ask any other questions other than your standard set of ones? 

Knowing that when you are in a conversation with someone who is advanced at being able to communicate well, you should observe the next time it happens how much you are contributing to the conversation. Did you hijack the conversation and make it a monologue about you? Many people do this unknowingly, and I’m always amazed by their lack of awareness of this occurring. Part of the reason this happens, is that it is commonly understood that people enjoy talking about themselves. So, when you tap into allowing them to do so, they will seemingly shut off their ability to realize they should sprinkle in asking the other person questions too. 

If you are noticing that you would like to attempt to have more balanced conversations, and perhaps alter your current communication style, here are some suggestions to help you to strive to do this.

·      Intentionally develop questions you could ask either someone you know well, or perhaps don’t know well that are open ended ones that will require more than a one-word response. 

·      Practice weaving your questions into a conversation, and strive to get to the point where you don’t feel like you are awkwardly interjecting questions for the sake of including them in your conversation. 

·      Become aware of the time you are interacting with someone conversationally. If within the first 3-5 minutes you have been doing all of the talking, and have not asked the other person a question, you know its time for you to switch gears and start to ask the person you are talking to some questions too. 

·      When you ask someone how are they doing, are you only expecting a quick and courteous answer, or are you truly looking for them to provide you with more information? Of course, asking this question is situational, so if it’s going to be a question tossed out as you are passing them by, then a brief answer would be appropriate. Conversely, if you are asking someone “How are you?” when you both have time, make sure you provide enough time to allow them to reciprocate this question. Not everyone does this. 

·      Ask someone you trust, and if you are curious, about which conversational category you fall into. Please don’t get defensive with this person if you don’t like their response, and be sure to thank them for telling you about their observation of your communication style. 

·      Your mindset about becoming a more balanced communicator needs to be wide open.

·      It is critical that you will need to authentically be curious about asking questions with the intent of truly listening to what you are hearing. 

·      When you are actively listening, you will hear things being said that will naturally lead you to be able to ask additional questions. That’s if you want to keep the conversation going. 

·      If you are in, or want to be in a leadership role, it will be critical for you to master the art of being able to communicate well. There is plenty of information to consume to help you to become a more advanced or better communicator.

Mastering the ability to communicate well with others is at the top of my list of important skills that everyone should be working on. Yes, this is hard to do, but the rewards of being able to communicate at a higher level will be rewarding to you in so many new ways, and I can’t wait for you to find out what I mean by this. 

TAGS: #Communication #CommunicatingWithOthers #EffectivelyCommunicating #HowToCommunicateWellWithOthers #HowDoYouCommunicate #WhatsYourCommunicationStyle #Business #Leadership

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