Great stories and great questions are the key to engaging with others and they are skills that we all should concentrate on refining, developing and improving every day. For example if I asked you to tell me about your recent trip to Europe I’d probably hear about an amazing meal you had at a cafe, a visit to a world renowned museum, beautiful buildings, music and the people you encountered. I doubt that you’d start by telling me the population statistics of Barcelona, the exchange rate of the Euro or how many people visit the Louvre on an annual basis. Those are all facts, but facts alone don’t do the trick. Describing in detail your walk through the Left Bank, the sounds, the smells, the sights will paint a much better picture.
Most people prefer to tell stories, the way to get them to do so is to ask great questions. A great question should put someone on a quest to tell their story; it will cause them to search, to seek and to pursue a way to communicate their issues, concerns, struggles and experiences in a very intimate way. Asking questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no or with a statistic will not do the trick.
I’d like to suggest that you craft a handful of questions that you can use and put them through the “quest test”. The quest test simply asks that as a result of answering that question will it cause them to search, to seek or to pursue a way of framing their answer that will force them to be thoughtful and to frame the answer in a way that will deepen the interaction. There is no simple formula for this, it could be about their passions, fears, dreams, struggles or aspirations. It could be a question that has them explain what the impact of their vision or work is to a specific stake holder group. A question that allows them to speak openly about a lofty goal or a painful experience.
Once you’ve developed a few of your own try and ask quest questions during meetings, conversations, sales calls, presentations and ordinary interactions. Not only will you benefit from being privy to much deeper stories but the benefit to the person you ask the question of is immeasurable. I know that I’ve succeeded when I follow up with a client or colleague a day or two after we’ve met and they tell me that they’ve been thinking about a particular question that I asked them and it really stuck in their head. It’s lazy and easy to ask ordinary questions, and the results are that you’ve wasted an opportunity to separate yourself from the herd. It doesn’t take resources or a PHD in communications.
What are some of the greatest quest questions you’ve asked or been asked lately?