Reflective Listening

Source: Both Sides of the Table blog, Dec 2010

The ability to ask questions effectively is one of the most important skills in business as is the ability to actively listen.

The “Wide” (and uninterrupted) Question:

You ask a very broadly defined question and intentionally don’t try to offer specificity in what you mean by the question.  It is designed to get the person you’re asking to reveal more than they would if your question directed them toward a more narrowly defined path.  There are definitely times where a more narrowly defined question makes sense and where you want to guide the person you’re talking with to a narrow boundary to elicit a certain type of response.  For extracting the maximum range of information in an interview nothing beats “wide” and nothing beats silence from your side.

Wide questions are to be used early in a meeting to learn as many unexpected facts as you can.  Answers to wide questions can give you lots of nuggets to drill down into later in the meeting.  But resist the temptation to seek clarification for a nuggets at that exact time or the “random walk” answer gets taken off course.

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