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Asking Questions For Which You Have No Answers

Asking Questions For Which You Have No Answers
“Conversational rituals allow us to build common language, definitions and meanings that in turn create community. They influence our behavior at the neurochemical level.” Judith Glaser

To uncover "conversational blind spots" you have to become mindful of when you are making assumptions, interpreting incorrectly, and jumping to conclusions.

This begins with asking the right kind of open-ended questions. Questions that open our minds to explore new avenues of thought with each other. Questions for which we have no answers.

In Conversational Intelligence, Judith Glaser explains there are three levels of conversation. Level 1 is a basic “Tell/Ask” interaction. It is directive with no open-ended exploration. Level 2 is more provocative and the interaction is labeled “Advocate/Inquire." Referred to as “Share/Discover,” Level 3 is the most dynamic and exploratory interaction.

The example below illustrates how questions from the 3 levels result in different experiences.

Level 1:

“Do you mind including this brochure in the donor information packet?”

You ask a question that you don’t have an answer to but it is really a statement in disguise. This is “tell/ask” interaction to exchange information. There isn’t much trust. By asking the question this way, you are attempting to validate your own view of reality.

Level 2:

“I really love the brochure. It has all the compelling elements for donors. What do you think? Is there anything stopping you from getting on board with this?”

This exchange is dominated by “advocate/inquire” dynamics. You are advocating for what you want (not just telling). You are inquiring about the other person's beliefs in an effort to persuade them. Trust is conditional.

Level 3:

“Which of these pieces of collateral do you think will be the most compelling for this donor? Are there any concerns we should talk through before making a decision?”

This conversation is marked by “share/discover” dynamics. By asking in this way, you are sharing that you're open to being influenced and that you care about your colleague's thoughts. This signals to the listener that they can offer ideas and you both influence the decision that achieves greater shared success.

Learning to ask an open-ended question for which you have no answer strengthens your ability to have meaningful conversations that lead to transformational results.


Stay tuned for more C-IQ tips! This is part of a blog series on Conversational Intelligence course by Judith E. Glaser. Check out related blogs such as “Listening to Connect” and “What We Can Learn from our Worst Conversations.”

This article originally published on Vista Global Coaching & Consulting.

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