We all spend a large amount of our time verbally communicating with others. We’re trying to get messages across to family, friends, clients, colleagues, employees, or supervisors. We invest a lot of our time crafting correspondence to be heard and noticed. We plan questions and presentations, construct our delivery and view, develop objectives and expectations. With so much of our time spent communicating, our goal should be to achieve effectiveness with brevity.
Brevity is a skill that far too few people understand. Brevity is the ability to convey your intended message in the fewest words possible to achieve the greatest impact.
Some people have the gift of gab, and many people’s natural reaction to someone who is talkative, or even verbose, is to believe they are a wonderful communicator. It’s the salespeople we meet with a lot of energy and enthusiasm for their product or service, who talk fast and think on their feet. These people have probably had a lot of people tell them that they’re such a good talker that they could “sell ice to an Eskimo.” At times, this gift of gab is disguising the curse of being overbearing and lacking in listening skills.
Inevitably, the gift of gab will extend meetings, gather less information than we need, and be less effective in listening, and we will invest more phone time to achieve the same result. This takes away from time spent working on real goals and objectives.
In order to invest less time in communication, you have to be able to direct the communication through the veritable maze of issues, challenges, and distractions that happen. When we engage in leading and guiding through the use of questions, we can control a conversation. Some might not like the word “control” when linked with conversation, so use the word “guide” if that seems more palatable for you.
Whoever asks the questions and asks more questions is always in control of the conversation. Whoever asks the question is also the one gaining the insight, the edge, the upper hand, and all other factors we all desire. Some of us struggle with asking the first question, but most of us struggle asking the second, third, fourth, or fifth.
My wife Joan has always been less likely to ask questions because her grandmother discouraged her by calling her Nosey Josie! What was once an inquisitive mind wanting to learn and ask questions was diminished by the careless words of a loved one. Maybe you were summarily discouraged by a loved one to lessen your curiosity.
By focusing on someone else and keeping them talking, we can gather more useful information. We use that information to be more effective.
We should encourage people to talk through questions. The truth is, people like to talk about their favorite subjects — themselves. When we ask a simple set of questions, we can glean a large amount of valuable information about them, their business, how they make decisions, what’s important to them, their business relationships, their goals, their objectives, their strategic thrusts, their projects, their spouses, and their kids.
People love to talk about almost anything that is happening in their lives, whether it’s family, business, or leisure activities. By asking questions we can really learn what they are thinking and feeling. We can also learn what their needs, wants, and desires are in life. What motivates them to take action to make decisions a certain way? We can identify problems and challenges that they are experiencing. This creates opportunities for us to solve problems and serve them. It might help us to discover new business opportunities for ourselves.
The old adage that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason is true. We must learn to listen twice as much as we speak. Doing so we will reduce the amount of time we invest with others to achieve results for them and ourselves. When we monopolize conversations, we’re often looked upon as boorish. When we ask questions and engage people by getting them to talk about themselves, we are a brilliant conversationalist.