The Negotiator Magazine

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Train yourself to ask open-ended questions, ones that can not be answered by just yes or no, but that require longer, more expansive answers.  Questions that begin with Why or What or Who will tend to elicit more communication.  And you will have more chance of getting all the information you need. 

I have a question I try to remember to ask every time an associate discusses a situation with me.  At the end of our discussion, I ask: “Is there anything else I need to know?”  Or it may take the form of “Is there anything else we need to discuss?”  It is the words “anything else” that are important here.  Once asked, I pause and wait for a reply.  That is my fair warning of their obligation and their opportunity to tell me everything that is relevant to this situation.  No surprises later.  So get in the habit of performing this little routine.  You will have fewer surprises and no one will ever again be able to hide behind the cloak of  “well, you didn’t ask me” or “I didn’t know you wanted to know.”

Sometimes we don’t get the answers we need because we don’t listen. Learn to be a good listener. Be sensitive to the possibility that you may be asking your associates the right questions, but not listening to them when they try to answer.  Or maybe you are so fast and sure in your own thought process, that you interrupt and don’t give them the opportunity to finish what they are saying before you jump in.  Or you finish their answer for them.  Curb these tendencies.

Listening is not passive; a good listener can take complete control of an exchange between people.  When you listen well, you earn the trust of others.  People come to you with their problems, and their opportunities, when they feel they can trust you to listen.

Your ears may be the receptor for the sounds you hear when you are listening, but something else about you is equally important: your eyes.  If you are not making good eye contact or are continually busy moving around, the other person will not “feel” listened to.  They will know they have not really been heard.  Look directly at the person the whole time they are talking.  If it is a particularly long dissertation, you can look away or look down to jot a note, but only for a second before looking right back at them.  When you don’t maintain this direct eye focus, the person will feel that you don’t think what they have to say is valuable to you anyway, so why bother fully answering your questions or coming to you with information.

Having good information is critical in business today.  It’s yours for the (right) asking!

Liz Tahir is an international marketing consultant, speaker, and seminar leader, whose mission is to help companies be more effective and profitable.  Based in New Orleans, LA, USA, she can be contacted at (504)-569-1670; liz@liztahir.com; http://www.liztahir.com.

 

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March 2007