Questions may make others feel uncomfortable even manipulated.
I felt disappointed when I was told, “Sometimes when you ask a question I think you already know the answer.” Ouch!
It’s true; I frequently have an answer in my head. But I don’t have the answer. I’m interested in yours. I love asking questions.
Why be concerned about manipulative questions?
Some people ask general questions and then creatively apply responses. They might ask, “What do you think about the Tech Department?” You respond, “They’re improving their turn-around time.”
Your answer becomes, “The boss thinks you’re slow.” Backstabbers and manipulators make us weary. The issues, in this case, are integrity and trust, not questions. Additionally, it’s wise to answer general questions generally.
Questions are an exploration.
When coaching, for example, my answers don’t matter. Of course it isn’t always that simple. It’s normal for a coachee to ask, “What do you think?”
When exploring solutions or options I keep my answers to myself. I avoid polluting your thinking by giving my answer first. I can see where someone, after hearing the option I had in mind, might think, “Why didn’t you just say that in the first place?”
How can you ask questions without making others feel manipulated or uncomfortable?
- Begin by saying, “I’ve been considering options for the 'xyz' project and wonder what you think.” This signals others that you’re exploring.
- Respect and explore answers. Say, “If we choose your suggestion, what are the next steps?” for example.
- Withhold judgment. When I already have an answer I tend to use it to evaluate yours. That closes my mind. Open minds go further than closed minds.
- Create a list of options together and explore each one. “Let’s create some options that move us forward.”
How can leaders ask questions most effectively?
What are some of your favorite questions?