One of the first things you notice when you take a Tuk Tuk ride in Cambodia is the way they use their horns.
They beep as a warning.
Not out of frustration or anger, rather to let the scooter in front know they are there. To avoid a collision. To keep them both safe. They use the horn the way it was originally intended to be used. And it works really well.
In the west, we often sound our horn after the fact. In frustration and in anger. To show people how annoyed we are.
Same sounding horns.
Same form of communication.
But a radically different feeling.
I find it interesting that in our personal interactions we have a couple of choices in how we communicate warnings to people.
We can either provide gentle warnings, prompts, small beeps, to guide our teams and make sure we don’t collide. Or we can wait until everything comes crashing together and react after the fact, in frustration and anger.
Whether driving or communicating, loud bolshie statements really only give you the opportunity to vent.
They do little to guide or encourage the other person.
And therefore are ineffective.
Recently I was having coffee with a guy who had taken some advice I have given him and was raving about it. The funny thing is that he confessed to me that one of his team had given him the same advice a few months earlier and he had largely ignored it.
Often our familiarity with a person can cause us to be less receptive to a person’s opinion.
Our familiarity to our leaders, colleagues, team mates, parents, partners, or even kids can make us disregard the insights they offer.
We often have incredible respect and trust for those closest to us. We know their strengths, weaknesses and are in constant conversation with them. And all this familiarity can lead us to not even consider the firsthand wisdom they offer.
If we do this often, they will stop speaking into our life.
What a loss that would be.
There is a twofold implication for familiarity…
Firstly, we need to remember to not only listen to those closest to us, but also to take time to truly consider their opinion, rather than just shrug it off.
And, there are times when we really need to hear the truth by listening to someone who doesn’t know us well and who is respectful enough to be candid about their opinion. It can make us feel a little bit foolish, but at least we have no choice but to take notice.
The easiest path, if we’re honest, is through those closest to us.
For those who know me, you will know one of my favourite (and at times most frustrating) questions is “How do you mean?”
It’s a favourite question because it softer than “What do you mean?” and because it is a great way to find out exactly what the person is saying or thinking or trying to explain. It causes me to pause and be sure that I know, rather than assume I know, what the person is saying.
And as great as this question is, the most important thing is that it is a question.
There is so much power in questions. So much ability to draw in and hear what people are really saying. So much power to fully understand them.
A recent study of people involved in negotiation showed that the average person spends 11% of their time asking questions, but for the most successful negotiators this number more than doubles to almost 25% of their time. Just asking questions.
Effectively the best negotiators are people that … ask.
Until they fully understand the other persons point of view. And because of that they win people’s hearts, and reach agreement, and get positive movement.
All through the power of questions.
The weird thing about asking questions is that it makes me appear way smarter than I am. Often the mere act of asking questions causes people to think in ways they haven’t before. And they come away from our conversation thinking I helped them with wisdom, when all I really did, was ask questions.
So the next time you’re trying to help someone, or understand a problem. Try asking 5 questions (way harder than it sounds) before even trying to give your opinion.
When you do this, you too will discover the power of questions.