One of the items on my wish list has been to talk to high school students about phone skills, and my wish came true this past week. I met with seventeen Grade 10 students at South Colchester Academy. It occurred to me that these young people could teach me as much, or more, about today’s communication skills as I could teach them. And that held true, particularly when it came to the art of conversation.
It happened during a listening game. Statistics and studies indicate that we spend 45% to 55% of our communication time listening, so it is definitely a focus of my workshops. When we listen well, we inspire conversation and build relationships.
In this particular game, everyone chooses a partner and one becomes the listener; they ask their partner a question. No matter how the partner answers, the listener must continue to ask questions based on the answer they receive. And, their questions must be open-ended.
There are a lot of different lessons in this exercise, but the one that surprises the majority of adults is how hard it is to create open-ended questions. They find themselves defaulting to questions that only require a “yes” or no”.
But the students? No problem at all. They easily filled the three minutes with question after question after question for their partners. And when I asked if they’d had any difficulty, they looked at me like, “What?”
While I haven’t found any statistics to back me up, my thought in that moment was, “Perhaps young people are more curious.” I thought about three-year-olds and how they ask questions all day long. They are constantly willing to feed their curiosity. Does this fade away with age?
And as I drove back to Halifax after the presentation I thought, “Perhaps our adult lives are so busy, we instinctively choose close-ended questions to save time?” Given how overwhelmed most of us feel, this is entirely possible.
When we are genuinely curious about our prospects, clients and potential employers, they hear and experience our interest in them, our desire to create relationships.
So … how curious are you? Pay attention to the questions you are asking and let me know what you discover.