2) The person who is asking the question sounds like she is interested in my answer. Tone matters. Michael Grinder and many others in the communication world have spoken about the idea of approachable vs. credible voices. Who wants to answer a question coming from someone who comes across as disinterested just in the asking? There is a happy medium between being too excited (eyebrows too high) and being aloof (drooping at the edges of your mouth). People are more open to answering someone who uses an approachable tone.

3) The person who is asking the question embeds within the question a trust that the person is capable and imparts that belief in the question itself. The use of an honest and authentic, positive presupposition is masterful question asking at its best. Think about the following questions and consider how the responder would feel being asked a question with this positive belief embedded in the phrasing:
• Considering you know this area so well, what do you think we should do?
• What do you make of this?
• How do you see this moving forward?
• What are some of the ways you have thought through the next steps of this plan?

If someone asked me these questions in an authentic and interested way, I would feel quite open to offer an opinion. Questions that engage me have an air of possibility embedded in them. “What’s new since we last saw each other?” “What are all the exciting things in your life these past few weeks?”

How to ask the questions people want to answer

Questions asked with interest and with space to “hear me into speech” are a gift. Gift someone a great question this week.

Thank you to my colleagues at the Thinking Collaborative and MiraVia for their support of this work.

About the Author:

Jennifer Abrams is an international education and communications consultant. She considers herself a voice coach, helping others learn how to best use their voices–be it collaborating on a team, presenting in front of an audience, coaching a colleague, or supervising an employee. Abrams’ books include Having Hard Conversations, The Multigenerational Workplace: Communicate, Collaborate, and Create Community, and Hard Conversations Unpacked: the Whos, the Whens, and the What Ifs. She has also created a Corwin Press e-course. Abrams writes a monthly newsletter/blog, Voice Lessons, at www.jenniferabrams.com. Follow her on Twitter @jenniferabrams.