How to ask Great Questions (and Listen Actively)

I’ve been on my first long distance travels for the last 2 years. I am in Montevideo, Uruguay this week teaching at IEEM Business School. I’ve been coming here for the last 12 years (last year was a virtual visit via zoom). Many of my classes this week finished with participants commenting on the importance of listening to others before jumping to conclusions. A big part of listening is learning to ask great questions.

There are several good frameworks to structure your questions… one good framework is this one from RAIN sales. A longer explanation of their framework and approach to questions in the context of sales training is available in this pdf: Keys to Leading Masterful Sales Conversations (pdf from the RAIN group).

The 4 levels of Questions

The 4 levels of questions are listed and described below:

  1. Facts – questions about what is basically true for us both and we can agree upon.
  2. Opinions – questions about the other person’s opinion about the facts, the trends in the facts, what is important about the facts, what does it mean, who else is affected.
  3. Impact – questions about the short, medium and long term impact if we do or do not take action. The secret to a good impact question? it has the word “impact” in it.
  4. Change – questions about what it would be worth to achieve a change, what actions we are willing to commit to, what it would be worth to us if we could achieve a better future.

Here’s a list of 50 great sales questions divided into these 4 types of question from the RAIN Group blog.

If you liked this post, you will also like How to Take Better Business Decisions: 50 Great Questions for Critical Thinking and Jim Collins: How to Build an Enduring Great Company (12 Questions for Leaders).

Postcards from Montevideo

A few more images of my adventures in Montevideo

Persuasion or Manipulation?

Roger asked today: “Can you use too much persuasion?”. My answer…

What is Persuasion?

  • Manipulation: I get you to do something that is of benefit to me.
  • Persuasion: I get you to do something that is of benefit to you, and to me.

If you liked this post, you will also like Develop your Communications Skills and Influence: Cialdini’s 6 Moments of Power.

The Law of Reciprocity works… if you give freely

…not if you give with expectation.

So often, our gifts… are not gifts. They come with an obligation. This is not a gift… this is a transaction.

Human beings are hardwired to act in a reciprocal manner – we give back what we receive. If we receive a kind action, we are almost compelled to return the kindness… as long as it is perceived as a gift.

If the action is not perceived as a gift, reciprocity will not work.

What do you take from this video?

More on Reciprocity…

Leadership Communications

Nothing brings more opportunity into your life than speaking well in public.

I have been teaching for 16 years on many leadership programs at IESE Business School. Today I’m sharing a playlist of a series of videos that we put together as an introduction for participants of future courses.

There are 10 videos in the full playlist with a total duration of about 60 minutes.

There are 4 steps to speaking with impact:

  1. Have something to say
  2. Say it well
  3. Say it with Intensity
  4. Connect with the people in the audience

Here’s the link to the Leadership Communications video playlist

 

Listening is Seeking to Be Changed by Another Person

Listening is a state of seeking to be changed by the other person.

Listening is less about the ears, than about a state of openness to change.

Hearing is different from all other senses in that it has a buffer, a short term memory of the last 8 seconds that we have heard. This allows us to pay little attention until we hear a word, our name or a silence and this triggers us to scan the last few seconds of audio intently. Most of the time we learn to listen with little attention.

This is a dangerous mode of listening to those whose relationships are important to us. We must learn another way of listening to people who we value and are important to us. We must “listen with our eyes”.

When someone approaches me with the challenge: “I have a really difficult time communicating with my second son”.  My question: “how have you let him change you?”  This is what makes a relationship – a sense that both have the capacity to affect change in the other.  Where I don’t let you affect my views, you will not let me affect your views.  This does not mean that we let go of rationality.  This means we are open to the different priorities that another person uses to view the world.

If you liked this post, you might also like How do I become a better listener? and How to build trust, improve relationships and enhance the quality of our lives?

Influence: The 6 Moments of Power, How to Frame your Requests for More “Yes”

This video is about Cialdini’s 6 Moments of Power from his book “Influence”.

Here is Dr. Robert Cialdini’s book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”

About the Book

Influence, the classic book on persuasion, explains the psychology of why people say “yes”—and how to apply these understandings. Dr. Robert Cialdini is the seminal expert in the rapidly expanding field of influence and persuasion. His thirty-five years of rigorous, evidence-based research along with a three-year program of study on what moves people to change behavior has resulted in this highly acclaimed book.

You’ll learn the six universal principles, how to use them to become a skilled persuader—and how to defend yourself against them. Perfect for people in all walks of life, the principles of Influence will move you toward profound personal change and act as a driving force for your success.

Relationship First, Persuasion Second

I was listening to the Very Bad Wizards podcast episode #97 on how we really change our minds.  They discuss a manifesto for a new virtual country called Rationalia that was initially shared on social media by Neil Degrasse Tyson.  Here’s a very good reflection from Neil on the controversy triggered by his suggestion.

In The Land of Rationalia

In Rationalia, all decisions are taken because scientific data is collected and the evidence supports the law.  If you want to change a law, you suggest an experiment.  If the experiment produces evidence that the new law improves the conditions of Rationalia, then the law is passed.

In this land, reason wins.

This is not a country that we are living in now.  

This post is not going to get into the pros and cons of the nation of Rationalia.

 

How Do Politicians try to Change our Minds?

If I listen to political debate (Trump vs Hillary, UK Labour party, Brexit referendum) I do not hear rational arguments being put forward for a range of proposed policies.

I hear arguments that go to credibility (or Ethos, for those followers of Aristotle amongst you):

  1.  “You can’t trust her”,
  2. “She doesn’t have the energy”,
  3. “It was just locker-room banter”,
  4. “He says it does not represent who he is, but I think we all know that it really does represent exactly who he is”

There is nothing here about policies.  There is nothing here about the danger of the other’s flawed policies.  There is only raising of my trustworthiness and decreasing of the other’s trustworthiness.

Why has Reason disappeared from political debate?

I understand this shift.  I see three big reasons:

  1. People hold a wider range of beliefs
  2. more sources and types of data and
  3. more channels for experts to spread their views.

There has been such a broadening of accepted beliefs over the last half-century that there are few value systems that can be assumed to apply to the whole electorate.  There are few symbols that represent the same value to the whole electorate.  There are few bases for logical argument that starts from a widely held truth.

There is much more data, in many more forms (graphics, reports, video, analyst reports…), there are many more experts, there are many more sources for information.  The experts come at us through new channels – online, cable, satellite, podcasts, blogs, facebook, twitter…

It is confusing.

What do we do when we are Confused?

In this environment we seek voices we can trust.  (Check out The Trust Equation for an in-depth analysis of the 4 components of trust in relationships)

It is only a trusted voice that can open our eyes to a new perspective.

If you want to persuade someone, build a relationship. If there is no relationship, there is little chance of persuasion.

We only really change our minds when a trusted friend who knows us finally asks a question in a private conversation “Hey, why is that so important to you?  What effect do you think it is having on your life?  on those around you?…”

Who are your trusted friends?  Who do you allow to have influence on you?  

Launching a New Youtube Channel

I uploaded my first educational tips video to youtube in January 2011.  I wanted to reach out to a wider audience than can come and attend IESE Business School in Barcelona or in Madrid, or those who read my blog.

Today, there are 77 short educational videos on the channel, and with 1.3 Million views, the channel has been a success far beyond what I ever would have expected.

The Future Evolution of my YouTube Educational Channel

My “Rhetorical Journey” youtube channel has now got over 16,700 youtube subscribers and over 1,3 Million views of the educational videos.  The top videos are:

I plan to continue to share short form video content via this channel.  I will produce 24 new videos over then next 12 months.

Launching Premium Long-Form Educational Content

Up to now I have only shared short tips or 5 minute segments of speeches.  I have received many requests for more, and deeper, material.

I have decided to create a new channel that shares full speeches and full classroom sessions.

Many of you are happy with the short tips that I will continue to provide via the free channel.

This channel is not for everyone.  This channel is only for those of you who want to go deeper into the material that I teach.  I will be sharing at least one new long-form video each month.

[Currently Free] Opening Video: What is Success?

There will be a number of free to view full speeches such as this one from The Leadership Concert in Romania.  This set of speeches was delivered with a full orchestra and concert pianist.

The Videos in the Series

The full leadership speeches and more available on YouTube Conor Neill Premium Content

UCD Smurfit, Influence and Persuasive Communications Seminar

UCD Smurfit Business School will be hosting a 3 day Influence and Persuasive Communications Seminar on January 14-16 2015.

About UCD Smurfit Business School

UCD Smurfit Dublin Campus

UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School is Ireland’s leading business school and research centre. The school offers a wide range of postgraduate business programmes that equip students to become the business leaders of the future.

UCD Smurfit are one of less than 60 business schools worldwide to hold triple accreditation from the US, Europe and the UK accrediting bodies.

About the Course

Download Course Brochure

This three-day Influence and Persuasive Communications programme will strengthen executives’ abilities to engage and influence diverse stakeholders, including clients, colleagues, employees and top management.

Using a wide range of practical tools and concepts, participants will learn how to use both emotional and rational intelligence to persuade others in one-on-one situations and presentations.

It is a highly interactive course that will see participants acquire techniques for establishing credibility and managing nervous energy.

In addition they will gain valuable expertise in delivering diverse types of speeches by mastering the clear and powerful communication that is vital for accomplishing any business objective in today’s economic climate.

More Information and Applications

More information is available on the UCD Smurfit website: Influence and Persuasive Communications programme

Latitudes of Acceptance

I love this idea that I came across in an interview with Matthew Lieberman at Edge.org.

He speaks of an old 1960’s idea called “Latitude of Acceptance”.  He defines it better than I, so I’ll pretty much take his text verbatim:

Matthew Lieberman on Latitudes of Acceptance

Matthew Lieberman, UCLA Professor of Psychology

“I’ll tell you about my new favorite idea, which like all new favorite ideas, is really an old idea. This one, from the 1960s, was used only in a couple of studies. It’s called “latitude of acceptance”. If I want to persuade you, what I need to do is pitch my arguments so that they’re in the range of a bubble around your current belief; it’s not too far from your current belief, but it’s within this bubble. If your belief is that you’re really, really anti-guns, let’s say, and I want to move you a bit, if I come along and say, “here’s the pro-gun position,” you’re actually going to move further away. Okay? It’s outside the bubble of things that I can consider as reasonable.

We all have these latitudes around our beliefs, our values, our attitudes, which teams are ok to root for, and so on, and these bubbles move. They flex. When you’re drunk, or when you’ve had a good meal, or when you’re with people you care about versus strangers, these bubbles flex and move in different ways. Getting two groups to work together is about trying to get them to a place where their bubbles overlap, not their ideas, not their beliefs, but the bubbles that surround their ideas. Once you do that, you don’t try to get them to go to the other position, you try to get them to see there’s some common ground that you don’t share, but that you think would not be a crazy position to hold.

There’s the old Carlin bit about when you drive on the road: anyone going faster than me is a maniac and anyone going slower than me is a jerk. That that’s the way we live our lives. We’re always going the right speed, and everybody else is missing the boat. We don’t take into account that I’m going fast today because I’ve got to get to the hospital, or I’m going slow today because I know I had something to drink, and I shouldn’t have, so I’m going to drive real slow. We don’t take those things into account. We just think whatever I’m doing is the right thing, and we have to recognize there’s this space around those, and if we can find that overlap we can get some movement. And so that’s not a nudge idea, per se. It’s really about finding when people are in a mental space where they’re more open to other ideas, and what is often going on there is you’re trying on identities.

William James said long ago that we have as many identities as people that we know, and probably more than that. We are different with different people. I’m different with my son than I am with you. We have these different identities that we try on, and they surround us. With some friends I can be more of a centrist, and with other friends I might be more of a liberal, depending on what feels like it would work in that moment, and they can all be authentic positions that I really believe at different points in time. I’m really interested in looking at that as a mechanism of persuasion when it comes to regular old persuasion, when it comes to education, when it comes to public health, and when it comes to international issues as well. It’s finding that latitude of acceptance and finding out how to use it successfully.”

The original article is here: http://edge.org/conversation/latitudes-of-acceptance (the section on Latitudes of Acceptance is way down the bottom)

Aristotle and The Enthymeme

Aristotle spoke of the search for the Enthymeme – the point where my beliefs connect to your beliefs.  If you can find the enthymeme, you can build an argument that has a chance of persuading.  If you cannot find the enthymeme, then reason will not help build a bridge between your two positions.  The most important part of finding the enthymeme is finding out what is assumed as true for the audience.

The modern concept Latitudes of Acceptance captures this age-old idea of searching for the Enthymeme.

Point X and Latitudes of Acceptance

I have been a proponent for over a decade of starting all persuasive processes with your Point X.  What is a realistic, concrete and specific step that you want the audience to take at the end of your words?  If you can answer this first, you have a good chance of building a powerful persuasive speech.

Most persuasion fails here – it fails because we are unclear or unrealistic about what we ask of the audience.

Resources