Now you can make a difference in your friend’s life with Helpful Questions.
Have you ever found yourself wanting a spouse or close friend to know what you want instead of having to tell them?
The picture that comes to mind is a husband, who is clueless, asking his wife what is wrong. She coldly turns her back to him and says, “If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you.”
It makes for a funny sitcom episode. But in life, it is anything but funny.
So, wouldn’t it be great if you could discern what others want by listening to them?
With the Five Listening Skills, you can!
Where we tend to go wrong is to start with a question.
If you first use Reflective and Interpretive Listening, you will assure your friend that you care about what she is feeling.
She will then be ready for you to ask a Helpful Question. You will be rewarded with learning what your friend needs for you to know so that you can support her in the best decision for her.
Without using Reflective and Interpretive Listening before asking a Helpful Question will result in a shallow answer that doesn’t come close to the heart of your friend’s answer.
What is a Helpful Question?
It is a directive question you ask that cannot be answered with a yes or no.
You want to direct the conversation in the most helpful area for your friend. This is not where you pick up the agenda you have released.
But since you have been using Reflective and Interpretive Listening you have learned what is on your friend’s mind.
Now it is time to dive deeper with a Helpful Question.
This requires curiosity. You may be reluctant to follow your curiosity. You may have been conditioned to ignore your curiosity because it is considered rude.
Would you agree that curiosity is not rude when it is stirred by love and concern for someone else?
For example, if your sister says she just got a positive test from the doctor. She may need for you to be curious about the results. She may need for you to be curious about how she is feeling about the results.
If she didn’t have the need to talk about the test results would she have mentioned them?
Put yourself in her position. Does she need for you to start telling her what she should do? How do you feel when someone gives you unrequested advice?
This can be hard if you believe that you have something that will help her.
If she has a health problem that your product can help with . . .
If she wants to earn money working from home and your comp plan is perfect for her . . .
When the time is right, you will be able to share what is on your heart, if you have allowed her to share what is on her heart.
Consider this quote by Roy T. Bennett, “Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.”
You want to make your question directive and prompt a complete answer by asking an open-ended question – one that cannot be answered with a yes or no answer.
An open-ended question usually starts with one of the following words:
Here are some examples of closed-ended and open-ended questions:
Closed: Are you worried about the test results?
Open: How do you feel about the test results?
Closed: Is blue your favorite color?
Open: Why is blue your favorite color?
Closed: Do you want to quit your job?
Open: What do you see yourself doing in five years?
You get the idea.
We sometimes hesitate to ask questions, but if you have used the first two Listening Skills you have begun a process that will feel natural as you ask a Helpful Question.
Think about it as providing a service.
You will be listening. Most of us don’t have many if any listeners in our lives. That creates a vacuum. When you show up with a listening attitude, your friend will fill that vacuum with words from her heart.
Here is what you will provide your friend if you listen to her with a Helpful Question:
- You will encourage her to share what is on her heart.
- You will help her talk it out, which is one of the best problem-solving techniques.
- You will assure her that you are listening; that what she thinks is important to you.
- You will move the conversation along in a direction that is helpful for your friend.
- You can’t ask Helpful Questions and work your agenda.
- You are ready to give Supportive Feedback to your friend and then make a Confident Close.
You may have difficulty with Helpful Questions because:
- You feel that asking questions is rude.
- It takes thought to know which way you can best direct the conversation.
- You need to be listening for your friend’s feelings as well as the content of her words.
- You still need to release your agenda
Practice makes good. More practice makes better.
Helpful Question Exercises. Here are some statements that might have been made as a result of Reflective and Interpretive Listening. Some of these statements will tempt you to skip getting more information – information that will better serve you and your friend as you move forward.
These practice Helpful Question statements require that you imagine what the previous Reflective and Interpretive Listening steps provided you. As you answer use directive, open-ended questions. Consider what you imagine your friend is feeling. Ask yourself what information do you need to understand what they are feeling like and what they need to hear themselves say to make the best decision. Be careful. Some of these statements will make you want to share your companies comp plan or your product’s health benefits. Don’t do it. Not yet!
- Yes, I do resent that John doesn’t help more with bill paying. It feels like he avoids the stress and lets me deal with it.
- My job, you know how much I used to love it. I wanted out of the other one and now this one feels the same.
- I hate how I feel jealous of Cassie. I would just like once to have something she wants instead of the other way around.
- I worry about the car every time I drive to work. It is a long commute and I see the odometer keep nudging toward 200,000.
- I wish I felt as good as you. You seem to be aging well.
- I can’t believe that summer is ending. It feels like forever before my next vacation. I took time off last month. But I already need more time off.
- Frank’s schedule is crazy. The kids hardly see him anymore. He feels guilty and I feel resentful.
- I would like to have a business like you but I am not sure I could do what you do.
Congratulations, you have put away your agenda and listened Reflectively and Interpretively to open an opportunity to ask Helpful Questions.
With these three Listening Skills, you have learned more about what your friend or family member wants and needs in life.
You know what their hopes and dreams are.
They know that you care about them. They might be thinking in more positive terms about what you are doing – about your hopes and dreams.
So now, with your agenda still safely tucked away, it is time for you to give your friend some Supportive Feedback.