“As a general rule, the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information.” Benjamin Disraeli

In almost any human interaction, information is gathered from the responses given to great questions. How come then we are not that great at asking questions?

Here are 5 tips for unlocking information gathering potential: –

Check your Intent

Most of us have highly tuned sincerity sensors and react negatively to integrity deficiencies. Be sincere in your desire to learn more about the person and organisation you are engaging with. Park your ego, invest the time and provide the space so that you can develop ‘shared endeavour’ within the conversation.

 Don’t ask ‘Questers’

That is, you combine questions and answers which either consciously or unconsciously limit the information you will receive back.

“what is your key objective this year; is it to reduce costs or increase revenue?”  

This is an example quester which removes the chance of getting accurate or complete information returned. 

Have a Plan

Being spontaneous is over-rated. While human interactions are, by definition, unpredictable, developing the habit of asking particular types of question at certain points of the interaction will improve performance.

Asking isolated questions at the beginning of the conversation might have the following outcome: –

“what is your key objective this year” … “to increase revenue by 10%”

Fantastic, but it leaves the questioner with another question to ask. Pretty soon it can seem like an interrogation. 

We suggest using ‘connected questions’ in the early stages of a meeting: –

“what are your key objective for the year, how many of your team made target last year and how do last quarter’s figures look?”

Well-crafted connected questions provide the receiver with the opportunity to provide expanded answers which facilitate a more conversational engagement. 

We advocate following up connected questions with mining questions “can you share with me why ….” “please tell me more ….” “anything else ….” “what else ….”. 

Mining questions lead into so what questions “so what is the impact of …”    

Become a great listener

There are so many tips to improve listening skills. Our three favourites are: –

  • Get comfortable with silence
  • Ask clarifying questions: “just to be sure I understand, ….”
  • Check your body language; are you mirroring? 

Don’t Assume

This covers a multitude of poor habits.  Our three favourites are assuming: –

  • Consistent or aligned views; always ask
  • You are supposed to know; faking it is far worse than sincerely admitting ignorance
  • Knowledge; always cross reference, every time 

Those who unlock their potential will find more and better opportunities, will qualify those opportunities more accurately and will earn the trust of both their prospects and employers.