When I signed on for a life of professional communication, awesome responsibility and joy came with it. You get to find a community or type of business you can serve very well because of your skills, experiences and fit with their needs.
Professionals and the industries they run are my community. Normally, their greatest need is to improve communication so that they are visible and valued to the people they call stakeholders. That’s a big word and to my community stakeholder means everyone from members to the customers’ customers.
As I write this, the immediate need is to extend our support to all the wonderful professionals working hard to deal with the ever-changing challenges of communicating with their members, employees, sponsors, industry partners and other stakeholders about COVID-19.
Listening and Better Questions
The good news is in times of disruption and every day ahead for us, the principles of communication and engagement—getting through and making things better, don’t change. It’s the same skill set if your intention is to engage for helpful and charitable reasons or if it’s about you, e.g., you want someone to hire you or buy your stuff.
I’m here to help you communicate. Your moral compass and mental health belongs to a different kind of professional to address.
The most important two skills you need to practice, practice, practice until you get a connection, raised eyebrows, attention to what you might have to say are listening and thinking up a better question. Instead of working on your presentation, work on your curiosity and questions. The question behind the first or second question is the one that gets to truth and meaning.
The reason you have one mouth and two ears is that listening is more important than talking. Here are the basics of listening. Be glad you are good at some of this and keep working on all 8 basics.
The quality of our lives is determined by the quality of our thinking. The quality of thinking is determined by the quality of our questions. Without questions, there is nothing to think about. So what are the essential questions that you can learn and practice in every conversation until you feel you have nothing to say because you’ve achieved the ultimate? The ultimate is you have only asked questions and the other person has totally engaged with you, believes you understand them better than most, and tells others “That was a great conversation.”
You never made a statement and only asked questions.Still, you more than achieved your purpose of being understood and connected to another in a meaningful way.
After spending a lifetime learning how to ask questions, I can tell you I still feel there’s more to learn than I’ve forgotten already. The Internet is a rich source of material on the art and science of better questions. Go there, study up, and know this is key.
Here’s my short list of what seems to always work and a good starting place for building your better question muscles:
Why Would Anyone Talk With You?
All of these listening skills and better questions work 100% and are absolutely necessary after people feel safe to talk. If you and the other person already know each other, you have some basis of identity or familiarity. If you are a stranger, then you have to become good at stating who you are and at least one thing you noticed or know about the other person that locks in trust. Do not what you do and no clever value proposition phrase. Just be totally yourself, with all strengths and gifts ready to share with another.
This is why we hate telemarketing calls. It’s a stranger, no trust established and they have done absolutely nothing to show they have one clue about what’s on your mind, right now. It’s not even mass marketing; instead, it’s mass irritation. This is why we leave, mentally or physically, any conversation that does not engage us.
Equally important as a good listener is for you to distinguish what you can identify with and where you can do some good. In some cases you can only emphathize as another human. What makes things more engaging is when you hear a concern or problem that you have solved already or you have secrets and tips they might try.
For example, I become listener with superpowers when I hear someone identify an issue which communication solves. Achieving understanding is a communication issue. It involves getting your story out of your head and across to others, in person, through writing, on your website, wherever you seek to connect.
Here’s another example of an issue I cannot solve. What can we do when we hear feelings of anxiety, distress and concern? I make clear I’m not a psychiatrist or life coach, but I see helpful, science-based information and share links.
You are special and unique but not all things for everyone. That’s why you have to know yourself, better than anyone, and what folks can count on you to do, very well, immediately and for a long time.
My expertise is in the external perception of you and your life’s work, out there, in the world, where your clients and people important to you are waiting to hear from you. Other experts can deal with internal perceptions, which are all of the thoughts crashing around in your brain and feelings that determine how you process every relationship outside your head.
As a professional communicator, I can address facts and skills to create better narrative stories. Psychiatrists can address mental causes and corrections.
In many calls this month, I heard you! Some of you are wanting other experts who deal with internal perceptions. Let’s see if this is useful. Today, I found Beyond Blue and something that may help you and all of your relationships, though mostly at 6 feet or further away now–Looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak
Stay Connected for Deep Listening and Better Question
You don’t have to reply to this blog, but if you want to, I love to listen and help you get to answers you want with better questions.
Here’s some options for staying connected to Georgia Patrick and The Communicators: