On the weekend I was taking my daughter shopping for new boots. It’s still winter time in our part of the world and spring is just around the corner. (She has found that her current boots are prone to taking in water.) On the drive to the shoe store I asked my daughter
what the ideal new boots would look like. She described here ideal boots to be warm, waterproof, good for walking through puddles and good for walking through deep snow. Most importantly, she said, the boots have to be easy to slip on and off.
At the store we walked straight to the discount section, hoping for a great deal for the ideal boots. (I should mention that we had previously been shopping at no less than two different stores with miserable results.) At the back of the store, we found the children’s winter boots and right on the second rack was the ideal boot that she described to me in the car. They were warm (with soft fuzzy lining), waterproof, good for walking through puddles and good for walking through deep snow. And, the boots were easy to slip on and off.
She tried them on and walked around the store. When I asked her how they fit, she said, “My feet are smiling.”
Getting results starts with knowing what you want. The place to start is by asking key questions. The more completely you can describe your ideal result, the easier it will be to get what you want. For example, what does it look like? Are there any sounds that are important? Are there any feelings that are important?
In 2003, sociologist Annette Lareau published her research in the book Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race and Family Life. She conducted a study with third graders and discovered, among other things, that children who were confident in asking questions of authority figures (teachers and doctors) got better results in their studies. She calls the parenting style “concerted cultivation” which includes an expectation that their children negotiate and question adults in positions of authority.
Today I was in a networking situation where I didn’t know anyone in the room. So I tried the technique of asking questions. And what I noticed is that people like talking about themselves (and answering your questions). I realized that by asking questions I was totally in control of the conversation. To the extreme, when someone asked me what I did, I turned it into another question directed towards them and kept the other person talking. (This created curiosity about what I did and compelled the person to ask me again later.)
Wendy Keller, author of Secrets of Successful Negotiation for Women, highlights listening as the top skill in negotiating, followed closely by the power of questions.
“The more questions you are asking, the better the place you are in, the stronger your position is.” ~ Wendy Keller
Never underestimate the power of questions to get the results you need in the boardroom, in the classroom or the shoe store. Redefine possible.