I heard a coach once give succinct advice about how to ask good coaching questions. How to “keep it short”. Unfortunately, I can’t recall who it was. If you know, let me know!
I’ve been reflecting on the confusion and misunderstandings and abundant minor and major conflicts in so much of our communications. I think we should work to apply this simple formula, “keep it short”, in more of our interactions.
Here are the simple steps to keep it short:
Why? Why is this formula so strong?
Frequently the intro becomes this long, convoluted story rife with modifiers. “I think perhaps maybe when you said a few minutes ago that you thought you maybe could do that, and when I think back to other times and sometimes it hasn’t happened, well, then I …………………….blah, blah, blah.” We wishy-washy it out. Not good for clarity.
If Context Is Necessary
Sometimes we need context. The context is meant to ensure that the question that comes next is clearly connected. What happens in reality is that so much prelude comes that the other person is totally lost, or bored, or both. Keep it short.
Whatever intro needs to happen, make sure it is necessary and adds value. What’s the worst thing that could happen if you included no intro to your question? If the person didn’t understand, they could ask for clarity. If they understand, they answer the question and on you both go with your lives. Time and energy saved.
Sometimes those people who need to think aloud will use this intro in order to formulate their question. If you really must do all that thinking aloud, then you may want to try stopping and saying something that will signal that the rambling has ended, and the question is about to be asked. Something like “Ok, what I really want to ask is……” This lets the other person know they may wish to begin listening again as chances are they’ve gone into an alternate reality. It’s always best to keep it short.
Ok. Five words is hard, yet not impossible, and the point is not really that it needs to be five words. The point is to keep the question short, to the point, and singular. How we love to ask compound questions! It’s six questions in one. Which one do I answer? Sometimes they even contradict each other. Confusing.
Here are some powerful questions that prove it’s possible to keep it short.
What’s important about that?
What do you really want?
How could you get that?
What’s your ideal outcome here?
Ok. That’s a bit rude, and my mother taught us that we never say that to somebody. Worse than swear words. But really, stop talking. Ask a question and wait for the response. Yes, wait. Empty air space will not kill anybody. Give people a chance to consider, to organize their thoughts, to formulate a response. Do not panic! Once they’ve stopped talking, you can get another chance, just remember to keep it short!
When to use this
Clearly “Keep it short” isn’t a technique to use in all situations. Sometimes we need stories and narrative. Sometimes we need lots of background info. Yet think of the benefits if more “No Intro, 5 words, Shut Up” happened in your meetings? Oh, the blessed relief of not hearing somebody speak for the heck of it. No long intros that are intended to showcase how knowledgeable they are and the question is just for show. Ah……
What do you think?
(There’s another short question!) Where can you see yourself using this, other than coaching conversations?
Rosalie Boulter – Paradigm Shifters. October, 2018
Rosalie Boulter is practicing to be the best communicator she can be though constantly messes up even talking to herself! Darn being human. She’s a coach, mentor, trainer and the rest refuses to be typecast. Check out her upcoming event taking place in October 2018 here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/conflict-transformation-tickets-47489029967?aff=ebapi