Get Other’s Talking

by on August 26, 2015

Get Other’s Talking

meeting new peopleI love to read the comics in my local newspaper each day. (Often times it is the least depressing thing to read, however, that is a topic for another time and another blog). One of my favorites is the “Classic Peanuts” that is published. One of the time honored Peanut bits is when Lucy sets up her booth as a psychiatrist. She will charge anyone who comes to her a nickel to listen to and solve their problem. Often her advice is not worth much. Many times it is very self-centered on how the solution would best benefit her. In short, she is just telling those who come to her what to do, under the premise, advice given, problem solved.

One of the things that I have learned over the last 6 years both through my coaching studies and working with job searchers is a key to getting individuals moving forward is not to tell people what to do, but to “get them talking”. There is always the anxiousness to help. Often our minds wander to the “solution” for the other person, without getting to the root of all the issues they are processing. By taking the time to getting them to share what they are feeling, (in a comforting as opposed to threatening way), a lot more gets accomplished.

The best way to get others to share I have found is by asking questions. However, not just any questions. Listen carefully to the questions that you ask.   With what words do they begin? Are they the type of question where you have allowed the listener to only answer “Yes” or “No”, or do they require a more elaborate answer.   To get people talking, the best questions begin with words such as “What”, “Who”, “How”, “When” or “Where”, or are actually started as a statement with a phrase such as “Tell Me a Time”. On the other hand, while it is a word that can’t usually be answered with a Yes or No answer, a word I look to avoid beginning a question with is “Why?” Why do I do that? More often than not, Why puts your listener on the defensive. They’re asked to justify their belief (almost as if the questioner has put a judgment on that belief). If you don’t believe me on this point, remember it the next time your 3 year old keeps asking you “Why” over and over again, when you say they cannot do something.

Many of us find it difficult to engage others in conversation, especially in situations where we don’t know many of the people present. Think of the last time you entered a large room of people that you did not know. How did you feel at that point? How uncomfortable were you at that moment? What steps did you take to minimize the uneasy feeling? My feeling is that your best times during such an experience was when you found someone to engage in conversation and you felt comfortable exchanging information and learning about each other. It is amazing how much we learn we have in common with others once we get to the point of asking them about themselves and in turn sharing some of the items we have experienced.

Before my coaching studies, and especially during my corporate career, I always felt I had to be the person with the answers. Even if you are in a position where others come to you for advice or trust you to listen to them, it works far better for you, when you are the person with the questions. Asking questions and getting others to talk about their feelings is the best way I found to build relationships and improve your knowledge of the world around you.

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