Questions A Key To Better Listening?

A couple of days ago I stumbled on some research about the use of questions. It seems 40% of all the questions people ask are really statements, and another 40% are actually judgments disguised as questions. (1)

I had to stop and think about that. On reflection, it makes sense, yet seeing the percentages in black and white was a little shocking. 

Those ‘don’t you think …’ questions
If 80% of our questions are just a way of stating the obvious or sliding in our own opinion, that means only 20% focus on hearing what the other person has to say! If you’d like to do a little research of your own, catch some of the interviews on cable news programs. Or listen to ….

Questions expose our intentions
They instantly give away whether we are in listening or telling mode. Stop for a minute and think of a conversation you had recently.  One that left you feeling the other person was holding back. Is it possible your questions discouraged their input? Accidentally implied you were not really ready to listen? Hum. Possible isn’t it?  
 

Listening requires content
Once you ask good questions you can begin really listening. Because good questions can uncover information people haven’t yet discover for themselves, they’ll need time to go inside and figure it out.  Time to pull up thoughts, feelings and perhaps even fears, about what really matters.  So after you ask, pause. Be willing to wait. It shows your intention is to listen.

And speaking of good questions … 
We weren’t, but it’s probably a good idea anyway.  As a general rule of thumb, good questions are how and what questions. Here are a few of my favorites.

  • What’s important to you about ….  ? Fill in the subject you’re discussing.  And then when they’ve finished telling you, asking with a meaningful look …‘if there were one thing more?’
  • You must have a good reason for saying that … do you mind if I ask what it is? Great for handling judgments and blanket objections.   
  • How is that working for you? Works well for those ‘we already have that covered’ occassions. Asking how sends people inside to evaluate.    

Let me know how these work for you, and if you have a sticky situation that needs a question, let me know that too.  Next, more ways to listen  

 

(1) William Isaacs of MIT, in Dialogue And The Art Of Thinking Together, 1999.

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Performance Breakthrough Coaching Or NLP Practitioner

So I had this call …
Since it’s Practitioner Season, no surprise that was the subject of the discussion.  The bottom line question was ‘should the caller take the Practitioner program starting September 25, or go for the Breakthrough Coaching?’ A great question.

How Would You Decide?
Sometimes the best answer to a question really is another question.  In this case, there are three I ask.

  1. Are you feeling stuck in some area of your life right now?
  2. Do you have any behaviours, habits, or beliefs that are blocking your success, happiness or satisfaction with life?’
  3. And most importantly, if you answered yes to either of these, how urgently do you need to move on?

I have had people call me and say ‘I’ve been given 30 days to change (my behaviour/my attitude/my results) or I’ll lose my job.’ 

Many times the very people who are most competent, even brilliant in their own area of expertise, have the least easy time integrating into some work environments. 

When it’s 30 days or else
Sometimes it’s a job-fit issue (think hiring miss-take), or interpersonal conflicts (read lack of attention to soft skills.) Or it could be timing as in over due for a change or stressed out.  Whatever …. These are all good reasons to go for the Performance Breakthrough Coaching.

Breakthrough sessions are a quick and very dependable way of changing habits, beliefs and behaviours in a short period of time.  They’re easy to schedule around your time and my availability, because they’re one-to-one sessions.  Just remember that rather than learning new skills, you’ll be getting results.  Even in extreme situations.

When evolution works
If life is going smoothly right now and you’re just looking to pick up the pace, the Practitioner program is well worth your time.  Because dollar for dollar, hour for hour, it is one of the best investments you can make in the rest of your life.  (Well I would say that wouldn’t I?) But wait …

I can’t tell you how often participants take me aside half way through the program and say ‘I’ve been meaning to take this training for years … just never got around to it. Now, I wish I’d learned this stuff 20 years ago. What a difference it would have made in my life!’ 

So you decide
When change is no longer an option, take the Breakthrough session.  You can always come back for the Practitioner training later (and around 50% of my clients do.)  When you want all the NLP tools, and you’re curious about experiencing the world from different perspectives, you’re ready for the NLP Practitioner  certification program.

What Is NLP?

It’s NLP Practitioner time of year
The back-to-school season seems to stimulate our drive for learning and advancing our careers, relationships and personal lives.  At Innergize, interest always peaks for the fall certification, spread easily over one long weekend in September, October and November.

What is NLP?
So I had a call the other day … and the caller wanted to know “what is NLP really?” Seems his friends and perhaps even my web site (oops!) had left him interested but also a little confused. Humm. 

A better question?
One of the least easy things for NLP practitioners to do is explain what it is in 25 words or less.  The elevator speech doesn’t come easy. After 14 years of working on it, ten as a certified trainer of NLP, I humbly offer the explanation that follows. For me, a better questions might be ‘what are the real real reasons NLP will work’ in your life.  

It all boils down to one word–Practice!
NLP is the practice of experiencing the world from multiple perspectives, to expand, enrich and provoke more choice, control and success.  
It includes tools for:

  • Achieving efficient, effective communications,
  • Creating more resourceful habits, beliefs and behaviours and …
  • Modeling (think reverse engineering) experts, so others can replicate their mental and physical strategies to achieve similar results.

With these kinds of tools, the applications are almost unbelievably broad. And that’s where I think we fall down as practitioners. We simply overwhelm people with choices and possibilities. Read on and you’ll see what I mean.

NLP has applications for business, education, parenting, sports and health. It can be used to improve performance virtually anywhere people are involved.

NLP at work
For business, NLP can improve job-fit, teach soft skills and develop emotional intelligence.  There are applications for coaching, managing and leading, marketing research and sales.  Modeling can accelerate the transfer of skill mastery and excellence from one person to another.

More rewards
Most people take the Practitioner class because they are attracted to specific tools.  Those who enjoy the most success with NLP persistently practice experiencing the world from different perspectives.  And then you’ll discover NLP offers so much more–a way of building resiliency and thriving in our changing world!

Why Non-verbal Communications Are Critical In Sales

Just finished writing a promotional article for Foran Financial Institute.  Foran provides excellent exam preparation courses for financial services professionals as well as hosting Innergize workshops on accelerated learning and communications.  The article happened to be on influencing motivation—techniques for sales and marketing.  And it reminded me how much we risk when we take take non-verbal communications for granted. 

Take a challenge
Ask your sales people to rate their skill with non-verbal communications.  Have them use a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is excellent and 1 is ‘you want me to rate what?’  I can almost guarantee you’ll get nothing lower than 7 as an answer.  It’s way too easy to over simplify, assuming that because we earn our living selling that means we must be excellent in all forms of communications.  

During workshops, sales people may even be tempted to brush off the practice exercises for non-verbals “because we already know that.” Yet, like everything else we choose to practice or not, there is a risk and a reward.  

The following insights on consumer behaviour while not new news, are worth considering if you’re working in sales.  And my belief is that we all sell whether we like it or not, products, services, or simply our ideas.

Grounded in Research
First, remember that decisions are based on feelings and then justified with rational conscious thought. And neuroscience suggests that up to 95% of our emotions, decisions and behaviour are a result of unconscious processing.

Three things you may not have considered

  1. When asked about product choices, if people don’t know consciously, they will make up salient, plausible and socially acceptable reasons for what they do. (1) In other words, customers will tell you what they think they should want, based on social influences. (A tendency that has led to some costly miss-takes in consumer research.)
  2. While features and benefits supply the rational reasons to justify a decision once it is made, the unconscious sensory elements of an experience have far greater influence (positive or negative) on emotions, buying decisions and loyalty. (1)
  3. Non-verbal cues and linguistic markers provide the most accurate information about what people want and intend to do, because they are largely unconscious.(2)

Unlocking unconscious communication 
Three skills worth learning:

  • How to dig deeper for the real reasons people will buy.
  • How to use specific process words and other non-verbal behaviour to communicate your value.  
  • How to read the critical non-verbal cues that reveal more than customers can or will tell you. 

Learn more about unlocking unconscious and non-verbal communications

(1) J. Le Doux, Center for Neural Science, NYU, 1998.
(2) J. Kagan, Harvard Mind: Brain: Behaviour Initiative, 2002

A Quick Note: For Unconscious Mind Fans

If you’re already certified in NLP, you’re aware of the role the unconscious mind plays in running your emotions, decisions and behaviour.  So you may enjoy the interesting tidbits of new research I found at http://nationaladd.blogspot.com/ in the August 26, 2007 posting.  Priming the unconscious is a facinating subject, especially for those working in sales. We prime our customers’ minds in so many ways and not always in the direction we’d like.

The Gap Between Knowing And Doing

The previous post suggested that most people already have a wealth of knowledge that if applied, would make them more successful.  The real question becomes what prevents us from doing what we know? Using our knowledge consistently? While answers may seem as unique as each of us, there are some themes.

Take my friend Paul who faithfully followed techniques recommend in the current success literature (media really.)  This new and improved version of positive thinking adds emotions as a critical part of the mix.  

All well and good. But as time passed Paul failed to make any progress in his life.  Even though he was working harder, he said it felt like taking one step forward, two steps back.  Know the feeling? 

Insights from neuro-science 
Doctors Joseph le Doux and Antonio Damasio, are respected neuro scientists working to understand how the brain processess emotions.  They now estimate that up to 95% of our emotions, decisions and behaviours are the result of unconscious mental processing.  Think about that.  Emotions, decisions, behaviours, running automatically without our conscious rational thinking.  

One step forward, two steps back  
Back to Paul who was using his new positive thinking + feeling techniques to achieve a very specific goal.  Here’s what a couple of questions revealed:

  • Although Paul had the skills to achieve his goal and knew others less knowlegeable who were succeeding, he still wasn’t sure it was possible for him.
  • He wanted to believe it, wished it was possible, but just wasn’t sure.  
  • The more he effort he made to move forward, the more stumbling blocks he seemed to find. The harder it was.

The fix
Once we discovered his lack of conviction, a fear lurking behind a wish, we used NLP to make the change.  Paul was able to unplug the fear, neutralize it and reconnect to a strong inner belief in himself that fully supported his goal.

We didn’t waste any time trying to figure out what caused Paul’s lack of conviction.  We simply updated his belief using a technique for working with the unconscious mind.  Neuro linguistic programming (NLP) has been teaching people how to work with their own unconscious mind for over 30 years, long before many would even acknowledge the concept.

Today Paul is seeing the results of efforts, he’s working smarter, has more energy and says he’s having more fun too!

Tomorrow ….  another theme, one that can cause you to to spin your wheels between competing priorities. 

Welcome to the Innergize Blog

Starting this blog is a first step to creating an environment where we can share practical tips, stories and ideas for leading, learning and thriving during times of change.  Sometimes even disruptive change! 

The operative word here is sharing so I hope you’ll add your own comments, ideas, suggestions and requests as time goes on.  

Why a title like communications, motivation and NLP resources?
The name reflects three things I’ve observed about life and people.

  1. The most challenging opportunities for growth you’ll have to deal with usually walk on two legs.
  2. If you look down, you’ll notice the feet at the end of those legs are often your own.
  3. Nobody ever stops in a moment of bliss to say “what is there to learn from this?” And life is learning.

I’ve also noticed that most people already know what they need to do to be more successful.  The real challenge isn’t knowing what to do, it’s knowing how to get yourself to do it, consistently.  I have a friend who believes, if we just did 10% more of what we know needs to be done, we’d all enjoy 90% more success!!

For me, this is where communications, motivation and NLP resources come together.  How we communicate with ourselves and others, directly or indirectly,  influences motivation.  And NLP is a wonderful resource for learning how to communicate in ways that will be motivating, for yourself and others.  So if you’re interested in harnessing the power of your mind, accessing more of your inner resources and assisting others of a like mind to do the same, NLP may be worth considering.  What do you think?