Effective questioning and active listening

How can you become more effective in your verbal communication? By listening actively and questioning effectively.

If you don’t question effectively during verbal communication, then it’s unlikely you’ll understand what the speaker is talking about and you certainly won’t be capable of offering help.

Think about your questioning technique as a funnel.

At the top (wide part) of the funnel you ask questions that look for information, facts, feelings or attitudes about particular subjects. People do this by using open questions such as what, where, when, who, how and in some instances why.

In the mid part of the funnel you can start to follow a particular subject and ask more enquiring or probing questions using the acronym TED; Tell me more; Explain what you mean; Describe that for me.

As you exhaust each line of enquiry in the thin part of the funnel, you can start to evaluate what you’ve heard with the other person, summarising and gaining clarification of what you’ve heard, asking closed questions such as: “Does this make sense?” or: “Is that correct?” The use of closed questions at this point is to confirm or deny your understanding.

During the conversation and as trust builds, you’ll be able to ask deeper questions about how the other person feels about the subject, how it may be affecting them and how important it is to them.

Being curious and asking questions that are relevant will create a conversation rather than a series of unconnected questions.

Effective Listening

Of course we all listen – but how effectively? There are three levels of effectiveness:

Level one: This is when you’re not paying full attention, tuning in and out of the conversation. This lack of attention will usually be reflected in your body language with a detached posture and blank stare.

Level two: You’re hearing the words but not really taking them in, or the significance of what is being said – and you’re certainly not empathising with the speaker about the content. Often the listener assumes the success of the verbal communication lies with the speaker. This is likely to lead to misunderstanding between parties. At level 1, it is obvious that the person is not listening; however, at level 2, the speaker may have a false sense of being listened to and understood.

Level three: When you listen, you become directly involved in the communication process and will often restate or paraphrase the message back for the speaker to hear. In doing so, you give feedback to the speaker concerning the clarity and accuracy of his message; he also develops a deeper appreciation of what you’re thinking and feeling.

Thus active listening encourages a true dialogue between the two parties in which both accuracy and mutual validation are achieved.

Very few people spend most of their time listening at level 3. Most of us listen at all three levels over the course of a day, but the more we listen at level 3, the more effective we will be.

Thanks to: Patrick Bird www.interactiveperformancemanagement.com

If you’d like to discuss any of the topics raised here, then give us a call on 01865 881056 or email us at info@leaderslab.co.uk .