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It’s Not Just Listening That’s Important – What About Your Questions?

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It's Not Just Listening That's Important – What About Your Questions?

We’ve heard it all the time – you have two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you speak. However, it’s not just waiting to speak 50% of the time that is important; it’s what you do with that time that is essential to getting the information you need. Let’s chat about the fundamentals of having a conversation.

Some say having a conversation is a lost art, and they may be right. A true conversation is an exchange of ideas and information and an opportunity to learn, yet often times it becomes a one-sided barrage of statements and judgments. When was the last time you sat in a meeting and had everyone make a comment that was completely irrelevant but wanted to have their voice heard?

The most effective and important element of any conversation is the question. No matter the situation: a sales meeting; an employee annual review; a team project meeting; getting your kids to clean their room; asking the right questions will yield amazing results. And, fortunately for us, there are really smart people out in this world that have studied the effectiveness of questions. Yes – smart people have studied actual questions and have provided a framework on how to make a conversation the most productive it can be.

This framework is best known as the ORID framework. It’s a listing out of questions in a particular manner to most effectively get the information you need. To set up a successful conversation, there are four types of questions you need to ask: Objective, Reflective, Interpretive and Decisional.

Objective questions.

These are questions that rely specifically on facts. What data exists that is helpful to our particular situation?

Reflective questions.

This is the soft stuff: the feelings, emotions and intangible items that would have an effect on the end result or the topic at hand. What’s frustrating the team? What is their gut telling them? What surprised everyone or thrilled them?

Interpretive questions.

Here we transition to the “thinking” part. What is the meaning? What patterns are emerging? Is there a bigger theme that we need to identify?

Decisional questions.

Finally, it’s time for action. What’s next? Where do we go from here? Based on the information acquired in the previous three sections, what is our best course of action?

These are the question categories for any successful conversation. It only takes 5 minutes to prepare, but when you enter a conversation or meeting with your grid of a few examples of each question, your productivity will soar.  

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