Have you tried doing more listening? I know I talk about it all the time, but listening is really a powerful piece of being Thoughtfully Fit. (Look at me, talking when all I do is tell you to listen! But a listening blog is really not that exciting to read.) Listening can really help you challenge some of your own assumptions, get more clear about the needs and motivations of others, and generally help those around you feel heard.
That said, just listening isn’t the only key. You will get more, and likely more interesting, things to listen to if you learn to ask good questions. Asking questions is also an excellent way to self manage. If you ask questions first, to make sure you are clear about what is happening, you are less likely to react impulsively and say something you might regret.
Let me tell you a secret
If you are trying to resist the urge to fix, as we suggested in our last newsletter, asking questions can be an alternative way to be of service. Questions like ‘what have you tried?’ or ‘what’s hard about this?’ or ‘that sounds frustrating – what are the options?’ can help get the other person thinking about their own solutions. This is also a way for managers to avoid taking on – and trying to solve – everyone else’s issues at work.
And here’s a secret – it also works as a trick for those people in your life who spend a lot of time complaining and venting. Questions push them towards thinking about what they want instead of focusing on what is, and how much they hate it. By mirroring back to them and letting them create new awareness, they might be able to access a new course of action.
Give your friends time to shine
I also use questions as a way to keep the focus on others. We all love talking about ourselves – it’s human nature! Unfortunately, this often means we are more focused on telling our own stories than learning more about other people’s. Next time you are catching up with a friend, ask them lots of questions. This will let them really talk about what’s going on with them, and helps you to connect on a deeper level.
If someone shares good news, don’t counter with news of your own – ask them all about it. This builds connection, shows them that you really care, and let’s them talk about themselves. Good friends will hopefully return the favor next time you have something to share!
Not all questions are created equal
For me, asking thoughtful questions is one of the most powerful tools I use in both personal and professional relationships. They help me understand other people’s behaviors and motivations, get clear on goals and requests, and make sure that I am acting with as much information as possible.
One of the easiest rules to remember about powerful questions is to start with ‘what’ or ‘how’, rather than ‘why’. Although that feels like a good way to dig deep, it can often feel like judgment in the moment. What and how let people explore their feelings without feeling defensive.
That’s it! Any questions? 🙂