Using Questions Effectively
Estimated Lesson Time: 4 minutes
There is a tool we have in communication that is so important, yet most people fail to make full use of this tool. It is called the question. Most people use questions for one purpose, to get information. This is a fine use of the question but certainly not the only use. Questions can be used in several ways in the art of communication. Those who use questions effectively will be more successful and influential communicators.
Did you know that most people mentally drift off during conversations, only half-listening to what the other person is saying? Did you know that I asked that question not to get information but to get attention? Questions have an incredible effect on bringing someone back from “la-la land.” People are conditioned to respond to questions so when they hear the tone of a question, their minds are once again focused on the communicator. These types of attention-getting questions are best used in speeches and lectures, especially as an opening statement.
Did you realize that in my last question, I shared some information with you? All questions get attention, but they can also serve other purposes at the same time. In this case, questions such as “did you know...” or “could you believe that...” share information with the reader/listener. These questions are used as a more powerful way to get information across since it causes the reader/listener to ask themselves the question and mentally answer it. This form of information sharing works very well but should not be abused. Information sharing questions are great for occasionally communicating important points.
How would you feel if you mastered the power of questions and were able to communicate any message effectively to anyone? How would this help you in your achievement of success? (dramatic pause...) These questions were asked to start you thinking, visualizing, and feeling emotion. The ability to communicate emotions rather than just words is a skill that very few people have. It is one of the most powerful skills of a successful communicator, and the question is one of the best ways to use this skill.
Let me ask you this: Once you’re rich and successful, will you still use questions for more than getting information? And thus we have the presumptive question. Notice the question is not will you become rich and successful, I have already assumed that as stated in the question. The question is about your plans on how you will use questions after you are rich and successful. The presumptive question is one of the favorite tricks of lawyers. It gives information that is to be accepted as fact while at the same time, soliciting information. The presumptive question is also a favorite used by people in sales. This is done by assuming that you are going to buy and asking a question such as, “Would you like that in green or blue?” In sales, presumptive questions make it more difficult for the prospect to say no since “no” is really not a proper answer to the question being asked (tip: a good response to the sales person using this technique on you is to ask back, “I see you like to ask presumptive questions. Why is that?”).
Now that you have been introduced to several powerful uses for questions, why not start using them today?
I could have ended the lesson there, but I would not get a chance to explain the use of the last question: to bring to a conclusion. Leaving readers/listeners with a question that sums up your points is a great way to end a speech or writing. Once again, it gets the attention of the listeners/readers and causes them to think. Ending this way can leave your audience with a powerful impression.
Summary of the effective uses of questions:
- get information
- focus attention
- give information
- start the other person thinking or visualizing
- establish information as fact
- bring to conclusion
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)