Asking vs. Telling Will Get You Farther
A common theme that keeps coming up with my clients and in my work as a PeerSpectives® facilitator is the power of asking instead of telling. This is the foundation of coaching and was also the basis of the Advanced Facilitator Training that I attended last week at the Edward Lowe Foundation. When we tell others what we think they should do, they shut down because we are putting ourselves in a position of higher status. We are sending the message that we know more or know better than they do. This makes people defensive and resistant to what we are telling them. People don’t like to be told what to do whether they are employees, clients, friends, co-workers, family members, or teenagers.
A more effective technique is to ask questions instead of telling. Ask the other person what they think they should do, or what their options are, or what the impacts of each choice might be. Be curious and ask clarifying questions until you really understand what their issue is. Then you can ask for their permission to share a similar experience you have had and what you did that might be helpful to them, without ever saying “This is what I think you should do…” This is the process we use in the PeerSpectives® roundtable system. Participants are given the opportunity to ask questions about a topic that is presented and then share their experiences, but no one is allowed to give advice. This creates an open environment of equals where people feel empowered to make their own decisions based upon ideas they get from reflecting on good questions and hearing about others’ experiences.
If you find yourself wondering why your employees or family members don’t seem motivated to do what you want them to do, ask yourself if you are asking them the right questions instead of telling them what to do. Asking will take you a lot farther in the relationship than telling and will get better results in the end.
“Telling puts the other person down.” – Edgar Schein
“I never learn anything by talking. I only learn things when I ask questions” – Lou Holtz