One Trick to Generate Better Discussions at Meetings
In Exactly What to Say by Phil M. Jones, Phil covers the exact phrases that you can use to help influence, persuade, and cajole people into action. Whether you are selling something, generating a discussion at a meeting, trying to convince your boss about a certain path, Phil gives you the exact words to say and why they work.
One such phrase is one I have been using at meetings and workshops to generate better discussions. Before I tell you the phrase, let me ask you if you have the following challenges:
- You show some fantastic slides at work, expecting to hear comments but get crickets back
- You ask if there are any questions at the end of your presentation, and get head shakes from participants
- You are teaching a co-worker about a new process. You think you have clearly explained it, but in the end, your co-worker has a blank stare and doesn’t have anything to say to you.
I have experienced all of these things and let me tell you, it’s a little unsettling to get silence whenever you want input from others.
You probably ask this simple question at the end of a presentation or talk: ‘do you have any questions for me?’ The question seems innocent enough. It’s a question you have probably heard your boss and your boss’ boss ask others.
Except it’s the wrong question to ask.
Because every time you ask the question, the automatic response is ‘no’. Think about it the next time someone asks you if you have any questions — your automatic response is likely ‘no’. Even if you have questions, it’s a lot easier saying ‘no’ because it doesn’t invite any follow-up questions or additional effort on your end. And it lets the speaker off the hook.
So instead, ask this question: ‘what questions do you have for me?’
When you ask this question, you presume people have questions for you. They can still say they don’t have any questions for you, but if they had any questions, they are more likely to ask them. Just like anything in life, there are no guarantees, but this simple phrase change has helped generate more discussions, questions, and comments at my meetings.
This trick doesn’t just work for questions. It works for many of the other questions you have at work too:
- ‘Do you have any comments on this document?’ becomes ‘How would you improve this document?’
- ‘Do you have any suggestions for how I can facilitate better meetings?’ becomes ‘What feedback do you have for how I can run better meetings?’
- ‘Do you know who I can talk to for X?’ becomes ‘Who is the best person to talk to for X?’
Good salesman have been doing this for years. Rather than ask whether you like the color of the car you are buying or not, they will ask ‘which color?’, presuming you already have purchased the car and just need to decide on the color. Be like a salesman, and ask leading questions to give you better responses.