THE BLOG
10/23/2012 04:27 pm ET | Updated Dec 23, 2012

Understanding Others: Part III

How to Ask the Questions

Once someone has stopped speaking and you have looked down, nodded, counted to 10 and reflected on what words you heard, then you can ask questions to make sure what you think you heard was what the other person meant to convey.

Communication is rarely easy, as there are so many factors involved. It is a blend of life experiences, unconscious and conscious fears, self-awareness, observation skills, intention, interpretation, attention, culture, environment and much more!

The Spirit in Which You Ask

A woman called "The Mother" who studied with Siri Arubindo, an Indian mystic, wrote in one of her books:

"Everything always depends on the way in which things are done -- not so much what one does but the spirit in which one does it."

I love that quote and you will hear it often from me, as it relates to so many areas in life!

When you ask questions, if you do so with a spirit of genuinely seeking to understand, that nonverbal message will shine through -- so that even if you are clumsy with your asking, your heart is in the right place and the other person will not take offense.

Examine the spirit in which you are listening to everyone today and for this week. Are you silently wishing they would hurry up and finish, or thinking how awkward you feel, or planning your escape or reply, or telling yourself all sorts of negative things about the person -- or are you just tuned out completely?

Consciously listen with a spirit of seeking to understand and notice the changes in the effectiveness of your communication.

Pay attention to how happy people are after you have a conversation with them. If you are a leader, this tiny change will transform how people relate to you.

How many times have you, as a parent or partner, been listening in a distracted way and your toddler (or partner) has said ''You're not listening to me!''? They are right -- you weren't!

Once You Have the Right Spirit

If you are rushed, too busy or can't devote your full attention to the person wanting to speak with you, then say, "I really want to be able to listen and pay attention to what you are saying, but right now, I am distracted and have a deadline to meet. Would you mind if we met in an hour to discuss this? Say, at x time?" When it is the truth, said with genuine intention, people rarely mind or take offense. Once you are in the right spirit to listen, you can ask the questions with body language indicating you are interested -- which will happen automatically if you have the right spirit -- using words like this:
  • ''Help me understand...''
  • ''If I may, can I ask if you meant this...''
  • ''I am not sure I really understand what you mean so could you just explain it again?''
  • ''I am wondering...''
  • ''I don't want to assume anything so can I just confirm...''
In this way, you are not assuming, or relying solely on your interpretations of what you heard and communication is much clearer, more satisfying and usually faster. Remember, just having a spirit of seeking to understand will transform all your interactions.

Let us know what happened!!

Zooties!
Amanda Gore

For more by Amanda Gore, click here.

For more on emotional intelligence, click here.