Last week, we talked about helping others expand and grow. This week, we help you develop your own engaging conversation. You should understand if there are a hundred people trying to engage each other, they will connect in a hundred different ways. I’ve found people who can help others expand and grow, do it through building trust with the other person. They must be good at engaging people where they are and not where you would like them to be.
The foundational element in engaging others is that it must be built on a foundation of trusting and care for the others person. You must be willing to dismiss your own prejudices and truly listen to what the other person has to say. Only by being present with the other person can you help them engage in a transformational discussion. Good leaders are very self-aware of both who they are and what their intentions may be.
When helping others to engage, it is important to understand how they see the world. This may mean several additional conversations before the other person feels heard, loud and clear. The more they clarify a point to you, the more clarity they have themselves. The same can be said of you. You cannot be engaging without being changed by the process. This is the reason that engaging others is so critical to your own development.
When asking questions you must understand the charge certain questions may have to the other person. Depending on how they were brought up, some questions have a strong emotional charge associated with them. Engaging others requires you to understand not only how they answer, but why they may answer in a particular way. Engaging communicators are aware of this and shift or ask the question differently, if they see a question may be causing the other person distress. When I see when a question causes a problem, I ask the person a follow up question, such as, “Does this question make you feel uncomfortable?” Another great tool is to share what you think why it might cause the other discomfort. Just be careful not to link their response to how you might feel if you were being asked a similar question. Be engaging, not engaged.
Early on during the discussion, it’s easy to overcommunicate during awkward silences after a question. To become better at drawing people out, you must become comfortable with the uncomfortable. The second reason there might be longer pause is the other person may be searching for an answer or the right words to share what they think. The other tip I might share from the people I’ve worked with is during the early stages of the discussion, try not to write down everything the person says. Listen closely and repeat back what they share for additional clarification, but you are not trying to interrogate the other person.
As you become more comfortable engaging others, you may find certain questions that you can use to disrupt a person’s answers. Many sales professionals have the same answers for many questions, but you don’t uncover this unless you confront them when they give easy answers. This problem can accelerate when you’re dealing with a person that may not be like you. Many leaders I work with are overconfident and shallow at the beginning of our conversations. I would say smug, but that doesn’t describe it in a non-judgmental way. If you hope to expand their horizons and opportunities, you may need to provide pressure to help them better understand themselves.
My favorite question when dealing with challenging situations is “how’s that working for you?” then I shut up. Once, I waited for over three minutes before a client responded, but when they did, it was worth the wait. Many times you can get overwhelmed by their answer or emotions after this question. Make sure you have established a high level of rapport before asking it. If you’re having a hard time getting to understand the person, it’s a great change of pace question to use.
Make your questions simple and to the point. You then begin to better understand what’s going on with the other person. Many people pile up questions when they are nervous. Take time listening to the answer before coming up with your next question. Pause and reflect before you continue asking questions.
We’ve talked today about how to engage others using questions. Tomorrow, we share how you need to show up to help bring the best out of others during the engagement part of the expansion process. You can find the next blog at Market Leadership Journal on Wednesday morning. See you then.