Tag Archives: Communication

You’ll Only Get Answers to the Questions You Ask… (Flashback)

The devil is in the details and there’s no more fertile ground for relational bad-doing than what’s been left unsaid. Learning to ask more disciplined and purposeful questions will help you increase communication’s effectiveness, decrease unvoiced assumptions and keep devilish surprises out of your interactions. So, this week we’re looking back to 2015 for some timely advice about questions…

You’ll Only Get Answers to the Questions You Ask…
(Flashback)

Discovering possibilities, opportunities and potential takes the same skills as uncovering ignorance, incompetence and evasion. It’s all in how you ask the question.

Executives, lawyers, salespeople and anyone that’s ever been in a relationship can benefit from a deeper understanding of questions. The topic is so important that in 2014, John C. Maxwell dedicated an entire book to the connection between leadership and asking good questions.

Here are 6 commonsense ways to ask better questions.

  1. Be specific: Clear questions generate clear answers. Specificity doesn’t mean that you need to structure your questions narrowly, but state them clearly. Remember, the information you request also defines the information you won’t receive. This is especially true in evaluating strategic progress with rich activity levels. If you don’t know the information you need, it’s unlikely you’ll receive it.
  2. Listen: A question is only as good as your ability to understand the answer. Life is full of nuances, so an answer may contain information or shadings you may not appreciate while you are hearing the response. Be thoughtful and give yourself time to consider the answer and its implications.
  3. Don’t play ahead: Avoid thinking about your next question while someone is answering your last one. Show respect and care by being in the moment.
  4. Avoid judgmental responses: Great questions facilitate great conversations. The point of the conversation is to learn, build trust and develop a platform for future interactions. Providing judgmental feedback is a sure way to shut down the entire process.
  5. Follow up: Having taken the time to consider the answer purposefully follow-up with clarifying questions.
  6. Open up: It’s a two-way street, others are likely to mimic the degree to which you let your guard down, share openly and be yourself.

As always, I invite you to share your comments and experiences directly at jeff@jeffkaplan.com.

Until next time. Stay connected.

Original Post: September 4, 2015 (http://jeffkaplan.com/2015/09/youll-only-get-answers-to-the-questions-you-ask/)

KEEP K.I.S.S.-ING ME…

Life is hard enough without adding more complexity to the mix. For me, Denzel Washington’s 1993 line in the movie Philadelphia, remains a sound piece of business advice, tell it to me “as if I were six-years-old.”

Amen!

And I won’t be offended if you lower the bar a year or two lower than that!

Sure the world is filled with nuance, but many of us try to dress our communications up-for-success, using big words or complex concepts, but over time, sophisticated leaders know how to keep it simple…SERIOUSLY!

Three ways to simplify your life and your communications:

  1. Put a sock in it… Remember the old saying. “I wrote you a long letter, if I had more time, I would have written you a short letter.” The rule? Write a draft and then revise to reduce the number of words you used by 50%.
  2. 95% Seuss-Test it… Would 95% of the worlds you used fit nicely in a Dr. Seuss tale? If not, think of other, more accessible terms that will help your audience understand what you really mean.
  3. Engage your child or get one on loan…If you want to know if your message can be understood by a six-year-old, get a six-year-old consultant! I’ve been asking my son William questions about my work for years and he’s consistently offered great advice. If you are wondering if this will really work, ask yourself if the concepts you deal with professionally are really all that complex or are you just making them that way? Either way, my son is ten now, so he may be outgrowing the job.

Keeping it simple and keeping it real… until next week, this is Jeff saying, stay connected,

P.S. 300 words of a 300-word budget

-Jeff

How Big is Your BUT?

Are You a Trustbuster?

The words we use and the way we use them tell the world a great deal about whom we really are, what we really mean to say and whether we’re to be trusted or busted.

Avoid these trustbusting traps:

  1. The Status Changer: Interjecting terms and phrases like, “Can we talk here” suggests that the speaker is awarding the listener a change in status, welcoming him or her into an inner circle of openness. Designed to bring us closer, the practice often puts us on guard because we were not aware we’d been on the outside to begin with.
  2. The Revealer: Be on the lookout for people that say, “To be honest with you”, “To tell you the truth”, “Truthfully”, “Honestly” or “Frankly”. Use of these phrases leave us rightly wondering… weren’t you being honest with me all along? Should I only consider what you say as truthful if you’ve specifically labeled it as honest?
  3. The Gut Puncher (Conjunctive & Extended Conditionality): The granddaddy of trustbusters is the hidden conjunctive whammy that links a positive or otherwise complimentary comment with the term BUT…followed by the real, less positive and generally less complimentary part of the message. While the comment may be factual, BUT-like presentations leave us wary of the speaker. We sense the emergence of a BUT long before it’s uttered, and stop listening to steady ourselves for the inevitable.

Extended-Conditional Gut Punchers use complete statements and then land their blows after the fact. You’ll know you’ve been Gut Punched when the new sentence starts with terms like Actually or However to frame out their real message.

I know all of our readers are honest to the core BUT I want to help keep you on the lookout for others with less integrity. Actually, to tell you the truth, I’d love to know how many trustbusters you mentally nab this weekend.

As always, I invite you to share your experiences and comments with me directly at jeff@jeffkaplan.com.

Stay connected,

-Jeff

Premeditated Disappointment: Why Your Ex-Lover May Still be Controlling You…

Today, your ex may only be somebody that you used to know…

But are they really gone?

Humans are pattern-seekers. When faced with incomplete information our mind protects us by filling in the missing data with information patterns we’ve collected in the past. The bump in the night that fills you with fright, the potato chip that looks remarkably like your favorite saint and the words you heard when you play a Beatles song backward, are all indications that your patterning mind is hard at work.

We hear a bump in the night and our mind remembers that scary movie from long ago. Protecting us, our mind suggests a pattern…scary bumps in the night may be followed by the appearance of unwanted hockey-mask-wearing chainsaw-holding visitors. Be scared!

Desiring meaning, our mind rejects the possibility of random chance and interprets the shape of a potato chip as the face of St. Frito.

One study played the soundtrack of a rock anthem, long rumored to contain hidden messages when played backward. Unaided the participants heard nothing but inaudible sounds, but when researchers added a karaoke scroll of the rumored lyrics to accompany the reverse soundtrack, listeners universally reported hearing the suggested words.

So, what has this all got to do with your ex-lover?

The relationships we develop today are not created on their own merits. When your new beau asks you a question, your mind searches for patterns of hidden meaning. When your ex asked that question, it may have been a hidden putdown or some other slight and your mind credits yesterday’s meaning to what you are hearing today. When in fact, the question, could be just a question.

Knowing how your mind works to protect you and knowing that process could just as easily deceive you, may help you better see today’s relationships for what they are… today’s relationships. Getting rid of the patterns of premeditated disappointment your mind is sure to play for you, can make you and those around you much happier!

As always, I welcome your comments and questions directly, at Jeff@Jeffkaplan.com

Stay connected,

-Jeff

You’ll only get answers to the questions you ask…

Discovering possibilities, opportunities and potential takes the same skills as uncovering ignorance, incompetence and evasion. It’s all in how you ask the question.

Executives, lawyers, salespeople and anyone that’s ever been in a relationship can benefit from a deeper understanding of questions. The topic is so important that in 2014, John C. Maxwell dedicated an entire book to the connection between good leadership and asking good questions.

Here are 6 commonsense ways to ask better questions.

  1. Be specific: Clear questions generate clear answers. Specificity doesn’t mean that you need to structure your questions narrowly, but state them clearly. Remember, the information you request also defines the information you won’t receive. This is especially true in evaluating strategic progress with rich activity levels. If you don’t know the information you need, it’s unlikely you’ll receive it.
  2. Listen: A question is only as good as your ability to understand the answer. Life is full of nuances, so an answer may contain information or shadings you may not appreciate while you are hearing the response. Be thoughtful and give yourself time to consider the answer and its implications.
  3. Don’t play ahead: Avoid thinking about your next question while someone is answering your last question. Show respect and care by being in the moment.
  4. Avoid judgmental responses: Great questions facilitate great conversations. The point of the conversation is to learn, build trust and develop a platform for future interactions. Providing judgmental feedback is a sure way to shutdown the entire process.
  5. Follow up: Having taken the time to consider the answer purposefully follow-up with clarifying questions.
  6. Open up: It’s a two-way street, others are likely to mimic the degree to which you let your guard down, share openly and be yourself.

Death by PowerPoint and Other Communications Disasters

Ever left a meeting wondering what the heck everyone was talking about?

While a quick wit and a smart turn-of-phrase can get you noticed, the practice does little to advance the cause of effective communication. Worse, the vast majority of our traditional business vocabulary is not generally understood.

My first experience as a post-graduate was an orientation session with 100 fellow learners. The facilitator started the session with an unusual proposition — anyone able to define the term ‘leadership’ and successfully defend their choice, could skip the entire program, save years of work and nearly $100K in expense and receive his or her Doctorate that day!

Three hours later, more confused then when we’d started, nobody was ready to attempt the challenge. The facilitator used the opportunity to introduce our first assigned textbook – all 12 pounds and 1,296 pages of The Bass Handbook of Leadership, which discussed many of the 55,000+ known definitions of leadership!

We use terms like leadership everyday… but what are we really communicating when our meanings are unclear?

Last week, I conducted an interview with a former Fortune 500 CEO and I asked him a direct question, “What does Innovation mean to you?”

He told me it was hard to define (I liked him already) but in his experience, Innovation is about “getting people to think differently”. Now, that’s a definition I can live with… I understand it and I can identify it when I see it…

Anyway, it’s time to get back in the presentation, I think they are on slide 642 by now, but at least I’ll know what they mean when they talk about Innovation

READER CHALLENGE: Can any of you help define Strategy, Tactic, Objective, Goal, Team, Collaboration…or any of the other words we use every day but few really understand?