The Socratic method is asking questions with the expectation that the person you’re talking with knows the answer. I’ve learned this is the most effective way of having someone learn and get your point across to others.
A good question is the silver bullet in managing others. If you can help others discover what’s important they’re likely going to learn way better than if you just tell them.
Questions show respect for others.
There are many ways of communicating. You can ask, you can cajole, you can yell. All work to a certain point. The problem is that none of them work for very long. Another problem that you might have thought about is none of these methods of communicating show any respect for the person you’re speaking with.
If you ask a genuine question you are showing respect. You are showing that you are curious about what their thought process is. You’re showing that you aren’t prepared to yell at them. You’re showing you want to learn what their reasons are.
The purpose is to change behavior.
When you are having a conversation with someone at work it’s usually about getting them to change their behavior in one way or other. You can tell them that they’re doing it wrong. You can then tell them what to do. The problem with this is they haven’t learned anything. In many cases they don’t even understand why you want them to change. They’ll do what you want and they’ll resent you.
If instead you spend a few minutes more and ask questions you’ll allow the person you’re working with to understand what they need to do and why they need to do it. Questions allow you to help the other person discover what’s important for their success.
You get to understand why people do what they do.
When you ask questions you get to learn the other person’s why. Sometimes their belief about why something should be done is completely different than yours. Through great questions you’ll help them discover that their thinking doesn’t fit in with what you want. Or, you might learn that their reason is better than yours. This gives you the opportunity to learn from those you work with.
You learn what the other person’s level of understanding is.
Most of the time when a mistake is made one of two things is true. Either the person doesn’t understand what they’re supposed to do or there isn’t a system in place to support doing the right thing. In either case asking questions is a much better way for you to understand than to tell. There are lots of times when you’re first thought is to tell someone they don’t know what they’re doing. Every time you do this you lose trust. When you allow them to figure out what they need to do, you’re showing respect.
This is not an easy skill to learn.
I know that for me learning to ask good questions took years to learn. When I first made the decision that this was a better way to communicate I sounded like I was trying too hard. I can tell you that learning how to ask a good question was a sore point in my house for a year or so.
I struggled and you shouldn’t be surprised if you do also. Asking a good question is hard work. I bet that if you’re willing to go through the learning curve you’ll be glad you did.
We have a special report on relationship and roles in your business. Understanding what role you’re playing at a particular time will help you learn what type of question you should be asking. To get this report, click on the button below.