We don’t just ask questions for information, it’s much more helpful to consider how asking questions can build our relationships. Here are 5 ways that questions can help you:
1. Show interest and establish rapport
Rapport is that sense of relating well to someone, that feeling that you’re on the same wavelength, that you’re connected. There are many aspects to this, but one of the simplest ways of building rapport is by asking questions (and showing interest in the responses!).
(Forgive me for mentioning this, but so many people I meet don’t have this basic skill!)
2. Explore your relationships
At the other end of the spectrum, there are those relationships that feel too comfortable. Where we have known someone for so long it seems there’s nothing more to learn. We slip into a routine of asking questions about the day-to-day, and forget to ask questions that will continue to deepen the relationship. Does this sound familiar? Conjure up some new questions!
Here are a few examples that might help inspire you (from rather light-hearted to more serious):
- If you could be anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
- What’s the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced, and how did you overcome it?
- What are your top 5 ‘must dos’ before you die?
There are endless opportunities to know more about those we’re close to, just ask!
3 & 4. Encourage and guide your colleagues
This is a more subtle art. It’s easy to encourage with a “well done, that’s great” and guide with a “have you thought about this…?”. But there’s lots more that can be done.
Consider asking questions that help develop the person’s understanding of the situation:
- That’s great, what was the secret of your success?
- What have you considered so far?
- What have you learnt that will help you in the future?
- Can you explain why you think that will work? (Or not work!)
These types of questions show your interest, but more importantly they encourage others to explore, develop a deeper understanding, and share what they have discovered. This is a great way to build relationships.
5. Asking questions to seek help
Finally, we shouldn’t forget that seeking the help of others, even showing a little vulnerability, can be very positive for a relationship.
Consider these questions:
- Any advice that might help?
- What should I do next?
- And the classic: what would you do in my situation?
Asking questions are an essential part of building strong relationships, of connecting and communicating.
Now, ask yourself: do I use questions in these 5 ways? What types of questions could I ask more often? With who and when should I start?