“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”
These were the words of Henry Ford (of Ford motor company fame), they were first uttered in relation to business. Ford quickly realised that if he continued doing the same things, he would always get the same results. To grow his business and make the motor car affordable to middle class America, Ford knew he needed to do something differently. He went on to assist in the development of the assembly line, which changed manufacturing and business forever. It also made him incredibly rich and impacted the way we love our lives today.
How does this relate to us? Like many business lessons, they can be applied to life and vice versa. We are creatures of habit, we develop ways of communicating with loved ones that we think work, and before we know it they become habit – and not always good ones.
Have you ever found yourself asking the following questions?
What have you done today?
How was your day?
Should I do ? Would you do X?
With questions like this we are either asking to elicit a certain response (sometimes described as asking a ‘loaded question’) or we are unconsciously asking questions that don’t allow the other person to properly express themselves.
A good question is one that creates space for the other person to share the information they want.
‘What have you done today?’ can sound more like an accusation than a genuine question. It may often encourage the other person to answer in a defensive manner, setting a poor tone for further communications.
‘How was your day?’ is better, but have you ever considered how hard it is to answer? Most of the time our days are; good, bad, sad, happy, productive at times and lazy at others and filled with varying degrees of achievement and failure. It’s difficult to communicate all of this in a sentence or two, you’ll probably end up with an ‘it was ok’.
Should/would questions usually lead to a yes/no response. Instead, ask open ended questions like ‘What did you like best about your day?’ or ‘Tell me more about the project you have been working on…’. These questions allow the other person to begin talking freely. You can then follow up with specific questions about what they have said. This both demonstrates that you have been listening, and it allows you to gain further information on specific areas.
If you can learn to ask better questions, it’s highly likely you will get better answers.