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How Questions Can Be A Barrier To Communication

Picture the scene, your friend has just come back from holiday and you are speaking to them on the phone. The conversation goes a little like this;

You: "Hi how are you?"

Them: "Great thanks we have just got back from holiday".

Let's pause the conversation there. It's now your turn in the conversation. What are you likely to say? I am guessing you have a question about the holiday like, "How was it?, or "Where did you go?". You can probably think of lots of other questions of your own.

The conversation continues;

You: "Where did you go?"

Them: " Greece, it was lovely".

Great - hang on though. Let's rewind, we asked a question based on what we wanted to know. What if there is another way for us to take our turn in the conversation and still let the other person keep everything in their agenda and talk about what they want to talk about. Great news, there is :-).

Let's use so reflective listening instead of a direct question:

You: "Hi how are you?"Them: "Great thanks we have just got back from holiday".

You: "Holiday?"

Them: "Yes, it's been a really tough year and we needed to all get away to spend some time with each other".

Completely different response and now opens up a conversation about what is important to the other person.

I am not saying there isn't a place for questions but most of the time we ask questions as our default position. We have been taught from an early age this is what we should do to make conversation and is polite. Asking lots of questions can become a barrier to the other person, especially if it's all about us - which most of the time it is.

Let's look at questions with our kids. It's the end of the day and we go to pick them up from school. We want them to know we love and care for them and are interested in their day.

You: "hey how was your day?"

Then: "okay"

You: "What did you do?"

Them: "Nothing much"

You: "What was your favourite lesson?"

Them: "Don't know"

You: "Who did you play with at school?"

Them: "Can't remember"

And so it goes on, we get more frustrated and ask more questions and they stop talking or ask us why we are asking so many questions. 

I have a 10 year old in my life and have  found the following works well. Her motivators in life are all about animals. She loves them. When I pick her up from school we share a story about one of the three dogs, the cat or the chickens we keep. Once we have discussed this she is more open about her day at school. If she doesn't want to answer the questions then I don't push it and we avoid an emotional conversation, with me showing how much I care - all about me - and her shutting down because she wants to talk about something more interesting to her - all about her.

Questions are our default but are generally all about us. If you are going to ask a question make sure it's Genuine, Appropriate and Pertinent. Thanks to the communication guys for that one - GAP. This will allow you to still take your turn in the conversation and the conversation will be all about them :-)

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