• Jul 31, 2020 | Most Popular

    Ep. 6 - Asking Good Questions: Part 2

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    Episode Description

    Last week we left journalist & best-selling author, Amanda Ripley, and Chief Revenue Officer of People Data Labs, Andrew Elliott, talking about listening & asking good questions. This week they’re back to finish up the discussion. We dive even deeper into tips and tricks, all of which will help you become a better leader as well.


    • Amanda Ripley, Journalist & best-selling author
    • Andrew Elliott, CRO, People Data Labs

    Resources Mentioned

    Episode Transcript

    Katarina Jones: Welcome back to OtherWise Insights, Asking Good Questions: part two. You’ll remember we were speaking with journalist and bestselling author, Amanda Ripley, and the Chief Revenue Officer of People Data Labs, Andrew Elliott. We’ve been discussing the topic of asking good questions. I don’t want to hold us up much longer because I know you’ve been waiting.

    So let’s just go ahead and dive right back in.

    We started going into some specifics and techniques of asking questions. You know, my experience is that you can ask a question and it can either somebody can light up and completely open up to you, or asking a question can also have the effect of shutting people down.

    I would love to get a sense from you, how can you ask questions in a way to open people up more? And what can you do if you see people start to shut down?

    Amanda Ripley:  Yeah, well, I’ve been training journalists with the help of an organization called the Solutions Journalism Network. We’ve been training journalists in how to cover controversial issues better. And we’ve come up with, with their help, like a list of 22 questions that we use, particularly in times of conflict, but you could really use them anytime. And I can share those, with you and your listeners if you want and it’s open source. And so some of the things that we’ve found, just broadly, before getting into specific questions is, to always anchor it to the personal, if you can, if you just, if you walk up to someone and you’re like, you know, what do you think about abortion?

    You know, that’s a terrible question. Like people will immediately revert to sort of talking points and ideology and, and it just, it’s very predictable from usually from that point on. So you, you have to ask much more personal, not necessarily intimately personal, but like when did you first start caring about this subject? Right?

    Something that brings it to their own, the thing they know best, which is their story. And that’s something most people usually want to talk about. Not always. But then right away, be really listening. What I find when people light up, it’s less the question I asked, although it could be, cause I’m not asking enough questions, Katarina, but it’s more like the, it’s when they feel heard. Then I can see them light up.  I’ve learned this from people who do conflict mediation, try to listen for what seems to matter most to them in the answer, as opposed to what matters most to me. And if you try this out with a friend, like it’s a very different thing.

    So if you listen to what matters most to them and then ask for more, and make sure you understand it. So you say, well, I feel like when you say you felt sick to your stomach, like this was really upsetting. Can you tell me more about it? You’ll see them really appreciate that they were heard. Right?

    So I think we underestimate the power of that. Like most people don’t feel heard most of the time. And there’s really interesting research. There’s some, psychologists and researchers in Israel who have done really cool research on what happens when people do feel heard and when they don’t. And when they don’t feel heard, which is most of the time I would argue and certainly most journalistic interviews. They tend to be more anxious and defensive and get more extreme in the next thing they say. Right? So you could see how problematic that is for, for journalism, but for other things too. And when they do feel heard, they tend to say more nuanced and interesting things afterward.

    So it’s that next thing they say, or the third thing after that, it gets like peeling an onion, right? It gets more and more interesting and they’re actually more coherent, but more complicated in what they’re saying, because they feel heard. So there’s a very human thing where when we, you know, when someone’s asking you a question, it’s a little bit performative, I think with, with reporters, depending on the power dynamics, you feel a little bit like, I guess I’m supposed to, you know, give this person what she’s asking for and you don’t know if you’re doing it right. And you’re not really sure that’s the right question. And so there’s a lot of, kind of low level anxiety in that answer. And then if you feel like they heard you and are responding to what you said rather than your agenda, then you’re kind of like, Oh, okay, I don’t have to put on a show. I don’t have to say something extreme. I don’t have to like hammer this person over the head. I can just be a little, like 10% more honest, and then 10% and then 10%. And that’s where you get, I think particularly when covering conflict, to the really, really important things underneath the conflict. That’s the important story.

    That’s what matters most, getting to Andrew’s point about trying to solve the problem. You have to know what the problem is, right? And I think most of the time we don’t. And we never do, because we don’t ask those questions and we don’t listen.

    Katarina Jones:  It’s like creating that sense of belonging almost, or that sense of like come as you are. And what you spoke to at the beginning at the very beginning was building trust with people. That concept of listening, I imagine also really helps reinforce trust.

    Andrew Elliott: One of the things that really goes into exceptional salespeople is something you just said, Amanda, a moment ago, which is, they’re not assuming they understand the problem, or have all the answers, whereas a not so great salesperson probably is. And that’s a difference of both mindset and ego in how you approach it. That plays a huge role in terms of how open people are, and receptive and being vulnerable and sharing things with you as well.

    And that comes down to, you know, being authentic, really trying to understand. So they feel like you’re really trying to understand and not just get to a certain answer that we’re trying to get to. We want to hear, right? It’s kind of, what’s in it for us at that point instead of us really being authentic and trying to solve for them.

    And that goes back to what you said, Amanda, about like feeling heard. And I think you mentioned  peeling an onion. I talked earlier about the problem solving. And I think I talked about peeling the layers, and that’s what I’m always talking about with my team. This is, we’ve got to get down to the core, you got to peel the layers back, and each question you ask is going to help do that.

    And then the best questions, if you want to really create dialogue are the exact questions you started with Amanda, in terms of the style, this is what you were asked about Katarina in terms of like, how do we do certain things? So if we’re asking yes or no questions, “closed,” that might not get us real far.

    People have a tendency to shut down, we certainly aren’t getting a lot of information,  especially again, if that person thinks you just want to hear yes. They might even give you the yes, just so you stop asking, asking more questions. Versus, you know, the who, what, when, where, why the open ended questions, all the things, Amanda, you started with a few minutes ago when you were like:

    How does this make you feel? When was the last time you experienced something like this, etc. You get a lot more information and a lot more engagement and you learn a lot more. And you probably create a strong foundation for more of a relationship in the process of doing that.

    Amanda Ripley: Yeah. I’m curious, Andrew, how do you train people to stay curious? Cause I think that is really at the crux of it and, every time I stopped being curious, I end up being wrong, mostly. I would say. So, like, I’m always trying harder to stay curious. And I find it’s hardest when I’m personally, sort of irritated, or offended, or

    saddened by something someone says, like, if it fits a narrative for something I feel really strongly about. If I’m interviewing someone and let’s say they say something that I think is antisemitic or racist, right? Then it’s like, there’s a shutting down that happens, right? That I think a lot of reporters and other people struggle with is like, I become totally incurious and I just want to shut down the conversation, you know?

    And every time I’ve done that, I regret it. Because I’m not interviewing people live. Right? It’d be different if I were interviewing them on live TV. Then letting them just talk about their ideas maybe a bad idea. Right? But I’m not doing that. So how do you stay curious when everything in you wants to pull away, or you think you know, you know who this person is, you know?

    Andrew Elliott:  Yeah. So first of all, I probably don’t have a very good answer for that, but  I’ll try to provide some context around some of the things that we do, and that I do, you know, it’s interesting for a sales person, I feel like it’s almost the opposite.

    Meaning salespeople in general, and probably a great sales person in particular, they want to help. Like, that’s kind of why you start to get into sales. Sure, you want to make some money and some other things, but like you’re a helpful person. You have an intention that you want to come help and solve problems.

    Those are the best sales people. So where we’ll have the opposite of what you talked about, oftentimes is when we get to like, when our light bulb goes on, and we understand that we can go fix this thing for this person or this company or whatever it is, we want to go jump in and go do that. So we shut down the opposite.

    Like we, our shutting down is going into action mode to solve for this thing. And a lot of times it’s actually, it’s a little premature because where we’re at isn’t necessarily where they’re at. And so we have to bring everyone together at the same time, in the same way. And to do that, you have to continue asking more questions, even though your instinct is like, go solve this thing.

    You actually have to slow down a little bit and continue with opening it up until everyone’s got a strong consensus and alignment. Just because you are, it doesn’t mean you can necessarily round the troops up and get everyone else on that same page. It’s a tough thing. And I don’t know that I think I’m exceptional at it, but you know, we do trainings with the team consistently.

    We do methodology and we circle back to it. We actually did one two weeks ago and I catch myself all the time in team meetings and I’ll do it in one-on-ones or small groups where I go and ask a question, I get halfway through it and I restart the question. Did everyone see what just happened?

    I just started asking a terrible question. I’ve been doing this for how many years I’m  restating that question in a much better way. So just trying to stay aware and committed to it. I think it’s the awareness and the commitment and that it is really a lifelong, you know, endeavor that we’re trying to build this muscle, this skill.

    Amanda Ripley:  Yeah. I find it’s true in parenting too. Like once you assume, you know, what’s going on, sometimes you’re right, but sometimes you’re wrong. You know, like I was just talking to my son on the phone yesterday. I asked him a question, I didn’t hear anything about something he was supposed to do.

    Right? And hadn’t done. He’s 13. And so, and I asked it again. I didn’t hear anything. I asked it again. And he was like, I know mom. And he was really kind of dismissive and, you know, teenagery. And, and I said, okay, fine. And I hung up and then I called him back. I was like, man, you know, that kind of hurt my feelings. Like, what’s up with that?

    Like, and you know, I just felt like you jumped all over me. And, you know, I was like, I was like, I’m going to call him out on this. Like, this is not acceptable. And once you, once you go down this path, next thing you know, these teenagers, like I had this whole narrative in my head and he’s like, “yeah, I answered you three times. And you kept asking the question.” So something had happened with the sound.  I didn’t hear him. Right? He thought I just kept asking. So that’s a small, silly example. Right. But it’s like, this is always where you get into trouble. At least I do is when I assume I know how this ends, I know what the problem is to your point.

    And I know what the solution is. What I find with really difficult interviews or when I’m talking to someone across a huge divide and I get that feeling of like shutting down. What I’ve started to do is I literally have some questions that are on a post it on my office wall. And if I’m on the phone, I just look over and I just read one of them because I find it’s really hard when you’re like, experiencing that reactivity. It’s really hard to think. Right? That’s just a basic reality of the brain. So just being able to default to a question that you know, is a good question in almost any situation. Some examples would be like very basic, like tell me more about that. You know, like, but you have to say it with genuine curiosity, which is hard.

    Right? But you have to be like, Oh, tell me more about your beliefs, about, you know, the United Nations, or whatever it is. How do you know which information to trust? You know, it’s really hard, isn’t it? These days. So how do you know what to believe?  Or, like when you tell me the story I’m wondering, you might, you know, just tell them the truth, you might say,

    “for me, it feels, I start to feel really worried. I don’t know what to say. And I wonder how you feel telling the story?” You know, sometimes just being honest about like, wow, I really don’t know what to say now is OK. and I learned that from Gary Friedman, who’s a great conflict mediator.  When he’s in the middle of trying to mediate a conflict, sometimes he’ll be like, you know, I’m not sure what to do and just say it.

    And then the different parties kind of lower their guard because you know, they’re not sure either. So those are some of the things that I’ve found and I’m still trying to figure it out.

    Katarina Jones:  It strikes me in both of the examples that you gave, both Andrew and Amanda, that there’s a certain amount of vulnerability from almost like that leadership position of like, Oh, I asked a bad question, I’m going to start over.

    Or I don’t know what to say in this moment. And so I’m just going to be vulnerable and share that with people, which I think does help to lower people’s guards. The other thing that strikes me is kind of the approach, right? So there’s, maybe you make the assumption of my son didn’t answer the question, but if you say, hey, why aren’t you answering me versus, can you tell me more

    what happened for you? Right? Then he might be more willing to open up or, you know, whatnot. The approach, I think makes a big difference as well.

    Amanda Ripley:  Totally.

    Andrew Elliott:  I love the, you know, tell me more. I use that all the time. Or can you elaborate on that?  This is the peeling back the layers, right?

    Cause we assume we ask one question, and we get one answer that we know everything. But the reality is it might be, we might have gotten 10% of what there is to know, or 90%. Well, we don’t know what we don’t know, so let’s learn a little bit more. It kind of comes back to that sort of vulnerability, is not having that ego to assume that we do understand everything. And I love to ask people to explain to me, or to define when you say X, what does that mean to you? Or how do you define that? Cause how they think about this thing could be very different than how I think about it. Or if there’s different sort of stakeholders that all think about this thing differently,

    I need to understand what your mindset is about this thing, because otherwise, I don’t know how to navigate to this problem solving sort of maze, right. Without really having a clear idea of how this person is thinking about things. And to assume that we know that just because we get one or two answers to something is oftentimes it’s a fallacy and it’s going to set us up for some problems down the road, because we just don’t have a full picture yet.

    Yeah. It reminds me of that. There’s a famous quotation that’s like ‘the biggest problem in communication is thinking it happened.’ Most of the time we think we’ve communicated something super clearly and that we totally get what they said and that’s often not the case.

    Katarina Jones:  I get asked a lot when I do leadership coaching, or conflict mediation, people ask me, you know, we’ll talk about the importance of repeating things back or having people feel heard. And it’s like, well, why do I have to prove that I’ve heard them? Why can’t they just tell from what I’ve said? From my response? Have you gotten those questions before? Has that come up for you?

    Amanda Ripley:  Yeah, this is like the, I think the key to the kingdom. When we train reporters on how to do active listening, and we use again, Gary Friedman’s approach, which is looping for understanding, And there’s different ways to do this.

    Right? But they, it’s like right away they’re like, Oh my God, this is stupid. You know, because they feel like they do listen and they nod and they furrow their brow and they smile at the right points. And, they think they’re really good at it actually. And so, just, as I did. And so what we usually do is just try it first.

    So we pair them off and have them try to take what seemed most important to the person who was talking and play it back to them in the most articulate language they can muster and then ask if they got it right. So that is one way of doing this active listening thing. And they’re all amazed at how often they didn’t get it quite right.

    You know? And then when they check, the person comes back with something much more revealing, usually, or more interesting. And it wasn’t that they necessarily didn’t listen, maybe. Maybe they made an assumption in their head. Or maybe the person didn’t say everything they meant to say in exactly the right words the first time, you know?

    So,  that usually is the kind of thing I have to have people experience it, and then switch. So they can experience being heard and looped, and how that feels. And how it feels like even if you get it wrong, that’s fine. You know, like if you check for understanding and the person’s like, actually, that’s not quite right. That’s great! Because now the person knows you’re trying and you’re chipping away at it. So, but I do think, at least among reporters, there’s a resistance to that. It feels kind of like “woo woo” when you start talking about listening.

    Andrew Elliott:  hahaha

    Amanda Ripley:  Yeah, I don’t know.

    Andrew Elliott:  That’s so funny you say that.  Pretty early in my career, I managed some pretty senior teams and  these were sellers who had a good decade on me, are, you know, the field sellers who were working remote, and there’s all kinds of different profiles over the years that I’ve worked with.

    And now having learned my lesson, anytime I do go through a training  one of the first things I say is just knock that one out. I’m like, listen, what we’re about to do takes a lot of humility. It’s easy to have a bunch of hubris. And think we know it all, and dismiss this stuff, but I promise you no matter how much experience you have, if that’s something you’re doing, it’s holding you back, because then I’ll go sit in a customer-facing meeting with a fortune 10 brand with these same sellers and I’ll listen to them ask these terrible questions, and not listen to the customer at all, and have all these bad habits because they stopped listening and they stopped learning and growing. And so that’s very, very true. And the only way I figured out how to get around that is to just address it up front and try to set the stage that, hey, this is a real thing.

    And if you don’t think that it is, then you’re doing yourself a disservice. So I think there’s definitely something behind that.

    Amanda Ripley: I like that. I’m gonna, I’m gonna steal that. So, just like prime people for humility, you know, just say, look, this is challenging. And you might think that you know it already, and you’re, you know, you’re probably wrong. I like that. Including myself, like I’m constantly working on this. and it makes my work a lot more interesting frankly, to work on it, as opposed to just pretend I’ve got it figured out.

    Andrew Elliott: Well, and that’s the key, right? Is that’s the leading from front, is the acknowledgement before any of that, that this is hard and it may sound simple, but I promise you it’s not easy and I’ve been doing it for how many years, and it’s still incredibly difficult for me.

    And then setting that example where when I do get halfway through a poor question, I’m going to stop myself and revisit it in front of everyone because that’s how we’re gonna set the stage to learn.

     And I’ll tell you right now, I have absolutely won very large deals and gone through very competitive interview processes and won the job because of doing exactly that. Where just consistently stop, slow down, and repeat back what I thought I heard. So what I think I’m hearing is X, Y, and Z. And just making sure that that’s actually what they said and sometimes, and then did I miss anything? Actually, you might want to consider, you know, so it’s not just enough that you even do that, but you have to take it further.

    And the sincerity of doing something like that comes through. Beyond that, it puts you in such a great position to learn all this information. And also demonstrate to the audience that you’re interfacing with that you really truly understand what they need, what they’re looking for, whether that’s someone to come in and perform this role and clean this up, or do that, or whether it’s someone to help them solve for this really specific pain that’s holding the business back and they need the right product or services software.

    It’s like, they really feel like you’ve gone through the process, you’re in it with them. And it puts you in a great position to win whatever it is that’s at stake.

    Katarina Jones: My experience is that it builds the trust so that they feel like if you then give a counterpoint or some other information, they also are then more willing to listen to it or more willing to consider it. They might not agree with it, but they’re more willing to consider it if they feel like they’ve been heard and understood as well.

    Amanda Ripley: Yeah, people lower their guard, but in fact, I’d put it even more strongly maybe, which is people won’t listen to a counterpoint until they feel heard. So it’s like a chicken and egg problem, right?

    Like in my experience, particularly in anything that’s emotionally hot, unless people feel heard, there’s just no, there’s no point in trying to bring up a counter point. This is like, you know, if this weren’t obvious, it should be super obvious right now with fake news and misinformation and propaganda and all these things.

    Like the facts are really secondary once people are in conflict.  There’s just no amount of arguing that is going to break through. People need to feel heard. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen it happen over and over again in rooms with people who are really different and have very different worldviews.

    And once they feel heard, one side feels heard, then they will listen to the other side. So it is, it is kind of like a game of chicken, right? Maybe it’s not chicken and egg. It’s a game of chicken. Let me correct the analogy because it’s like somebody has to listen. Right. And this is true, obviously in personal or interpersonal disputes.

    Because until they feel heard, it’s like you can’t lower your guard. And in, in many, many conflicts, I think people want to feel heard more than anything else. So, you know, let’s do that. Because it’s often hard to come up with a perfect solution to resolve the conflict. But if people feel heard, they get into a much more flexible place.

    Andrew Elliott:  I think about it like making deposits and building the account up . Because a big part of sales oftentimes, not all the time, but oftentimes it’s challenging the customer. If you want that challenging to go well and to create the right type of constructive conflict in a sense, where everyone’s learning and growing and driving towards these positive outcomes, you’ve got to have a deposit. The well can’t be dry, right?

    You got to put the water in the well. I think that’s really important.  I’ll share this for what it’s worth, and this might be a little different because it’s sales. Although definitely I think on a personal level, this would hold true as well, is that oftentimes the best questions – and these are, it’s really hard to do this – but the best questions result in a three word response: ” I don’t know.” If you can get to the point where you ask a customer something and they don’t have an answer for it. You just won. Like, no one’s doing that with them. You’ve separated yourself from the fray.

    You’re really a person that’s listening to them. You’ve gotten them to start thinking about something no one else has challenged them to think about. And the flip side for a salesperson, interestingly, is when the customer asks us a question. If you want to build instant credibility, and show that you are authentic, and you’ve got real true confidence: “I don’t know.”

    That goes so far cause everyone expects salespeople to know everything. Right? Cause we always do. I’ll tell you what, terrible sales people know everything. Exceptional sales people know what they know and they’re very comfortable with what they don’t know, and they love to say I don’t know. Because same thing. It takes them out of that fray and they become a person. A human.

    And it’s powerful. Now, you can’t leave it at that. You gotta follow it up with I’ve got an amazing team of people much smarter than me, and I’ll go get the answer for you. But that goes a long way.

    Amanda Ripley: That is so interesting. I’m really struck by all the parallels. Like, I guess I didn’t think there would be this many. Again, my assumptions proving to be wrong.

    But I also feel like this is the thing that I’ve started to become really sensitized to, even when I listen to experts or watch TV or listen to podcasts with journalists, right? It drives me crazy. How many of them feel like they can’t do that. They can’t say, “I don’t know. ” And as a result, because they feel like they have to know, sometimes they come across, I think as much more smug. And, know it all, then maybe they would in person, you know? So I love that you said that. And  I think it’s really important. If a sales person can say “I don’t know” to a potential client with like millions of dollars on the line, then, you know, surely some schmuck reporter could say that.

    But  we’ve got these traditions right? That were sort of set up where, you know, when I go on CNN and you know, I’ve got the mic and I’m like, I’m supposed to be the, know it all, you know, I’m supposed to have the answers. If I don’t have the answer, this is what you’re always trained, right? In media training, if you don’t know the answer to the question, do you know what you’re supposed to do?

    Katarina Jones:  No

    Amanda Ripley:  Answer a different question.

    Katarina Jones:  Like a politician.

    Amanda Ripley:  Like a politician! And who exactly are we fooling with that maneuver, right? Like who is so distrusted? Politicians, reporters, right? Like, pundits. These people who pretend to know all the answers. Right? And I wish we could get to a place where politicians could say, I don’t know, and not be persecuted for it, but, but you know, part of it is just doing it more.

    And I think it’s like opening up our minds to the idea that we can not just talk about humility and curiosity, but model it.

    Katarina Jones:  I would say that’s something that really sets apart new leaders from more experienced leaders as well is new leaders, or new managers, they think that they have to have all the answers or they have to be able to prove themselves. Whereas somebody who is experienced is listening more, asking more questions and is okay to say, you know, I don’t know. Let me get back to you.

    Andrew Elliott:  Or even if you don’t know, challenging your people to figure it out on their own. Because they’re gonna learn a lot more going through that process than you just telling them whatever it is that you may or may not know.

    Katarina Jones:  Absolutely.

    Andrew Elliott: I’ll share this as we wrap up. I forgot about this, Amanda, when you mentioned like the gap words, so in sales is the opposite. We’re listening for like, I’ll just call it buzzwords for lack of a better word. And when you hear these anchors in a sentence, you want to hone in on it and really dig into it. It sounds so simple, but it’s-

    Amanda Ripley: Like what, what are some of the buzz words?

    Andrew Elliott:  It’s, you know, tell me about how this works and they’re like, Oh, it works this way. And when it does, this happens. Okay. And when that happens, what are the implications of that?

    There’s two things we could dig into. It’s the ‘what happened’ or ‘what happens when it happens.’ It’s just to have that sort of a mindset of listening to the responses cause that takes a lot of curiosity and then using these open-ended questions to uncover more.

    Amanda Ripley:  That reminds me of there’s a group called Resetting The Table that I did some mediation training with and they taught us about what they call ‘Red Flag’ words. So maybe there’s a similarity there where listening for certain things that you know you should circle back to.

    So anytime someone uses a metaphor is a red flag. That can often mean there’s more that they might want to say about it. Anytime someone uses a word that’s a little stronger than what you expected. That just even subconsciously you are just a tiny bit surprised to hear them use the word.

    You know, they say, I felt nauseated when I read that dah, dah, dah. And you’re like, well, that’s a strong word, you know? And you want to come back. Sometimes there’s an impulse to scoot by it. Cause it’s like too strong. It’s like, woo, yikes, I don’t want to upset this person by bringing up something that made them feel nauseated. Right?

    But, there’s more there that they may want to say. And if they don’t, they won’t. Right? So you, you ask it in a way, like I notice, you know, you said you felt nauseated. Can you say more about that? Why did it have that effect or how did that feel? And, you know, just kind of circling back to it with curiosity. And the last red flag, that comes to mind is when people repeat something that you didn’t expect them to repeat.

    This happened to me just last week when I was interviewing someone and, you know, he was telling what seemed like a pretty benign story. And he said he was at this meeting and the one person said, hey, maybe we should close down the space, the office space, because it’s kind of expensive. And then he kept talking. And then he mentioned again, that one person that said we should close down the space.

    And it really wasn’t germane to what I thought we were talking about. But because he mentioned it twice, I said, how did you feel when he said we should maybe close down the space? And there was this pause and he goes, I felt terrible. You know, cause this whole neighborhood is gentrified. It’s nothing like what it was.

    And if we give up this space, that’s the last space, you know? So there was so much underneath it. That was really important to him that I wouldn’t have asked about if he hadn’t said it twice.

    Andrew Elliott: Asking good questions, sometimes, can take courage because you got to dig into the nausea, you got to dig into the metaphor. Maybe it’s a metaphor, not because they want to tell you more, maybe it’s a metaphor because they don’t want to tell you more. So now you need to go in, peel that back and find out what’s underneath. 

    I always ask the team, how do you win an argument or control a conversation? And they got all kinds of ideas. And obviously the answer is just ask good questions. That puts you in a position to learn what you need to learn, to also control the conversation because you’re setting a framework and the audience is responding to you in the process.

    So, you know, it’s a hard, hard thing to do, but it serves so many purposes on so many levels in so many different areas and aspects of our life. But it takes a conscious decision that that’s what you want to do is have that curiosity mindset. You have to commit to it. And that’s the easy part. Because then over time you have to work at it.

    And the working is like, it never ends. You’re going to be doing it for years and decades to come. It’s this lifelong quest and endeavor, but the power of it just, it leads to so much throughout our whole life. It’ll make us a better partner, husband, wife, father, mother, and all the different roles that we probably want to be, not just a better journalist or executive.

    Katarina Jones:  And it can uncover all those extra nuggets.  Maybe that’s the thing that makes the story, Amanda, or whether that’s the thing that makes the sale, Andrew. By asking that question, it unveiled all of these extra elements.

    Amanda Ripley:  Yeah. I mean, actually this is like almost a counter cultural point that Andrew has made. Like he said, how do you win a debate? I think this is what, let me check. I think you said, how do you win a debate or an argument? By asking good questions and listening. Is that what you said?

    Andrew Elliott: That’s exactly what I said.

    Amanda Ripley: Okay. Think about that idea and juxtapose it with the way we do political debates in the United States today.

    Right? I mean, they’re literally-

    Andrew Elliott:  Here’s my point. You will hear my point. I will not stop until you hear my point.

    Amanda Ripley: Yeah! I’m just going to beat you over the head with my like conviction and righteousness. So that is the exact way to not win an argument in real life. Like with humans.

    Andrew Elliott: Yeah. It’s not getting anyone on your side. Right. Whereas if you can ask a few thought provoking questions, it can change the mindset.

    Amanda Ripley: Yeah. Wouldn’t it be great if like the next like CNN debate was like, whoever wins is the candidate who asks the best questions. Like it’s not even conceivable that it would be really, it would be I think, much better television.

    Andrew Elliott: Amanda, I’m submitting you and I for moderator roles in the next presidential race. We’ll see how that goes.

    Amanda Ripley:  Yeah.

    Katarina Jones:  So there you have it from the experts. A few key takeaways:

    Getting people to open up is more about making them feel heard than it is about asking the right question. So brush up on those active listening skills.

    People won’t listen to another perspective until they feel heard themselves. So if you want to be more persuasive, listen first and demonstrate that you’ve heard the other person.

    Letting go of your attachment to a specific outcome and staying genuinely curious, often leads to better results than trying to follow your own agenda.

    Some tips and tricks include:

    • Listen for the gaps, or what’s not being said,
    • Asking the same question multiple times can actually produce different results.
    • And look for red flag words, like metaphors, emotionally charged words, and repetition.

    Finally, never assume that you know, everything there is to know. There’s always more to learn and sometimes, you’re still missing the best part.

    A huge thank you to Amanda and to Andrew for sharing their wise insights with others.

    If you like this episode, please subscribe. I’m Katarina Jones and this has been OtherWise Insights.


    Adventures by A Himitsu