Some of the most powerful influencers achieve results merely by asking questions. They either ask probing questions to individuals and groups, or they work through a formal process of facilitation in meetings and work groups. They don’t impose their own views on others; they just ask a series of thought-provoking questions to guide others to reach their own well-considered solutions.
Group facilitation is a form of listening. It is a collaborative process in which a person seeks to assist a group of individuals to discuss constructively various matters or issues that can be complex, or even potentially controversial. The group’s views and conclusions are a valuable input into the decision making process.
In this era, listening is a key requirement of good communication. But too much communication is just one-way – to merely get a message across without seeking feedback from the message recipients. This has historically been the case, but is changing. The two-way nature of social media is the outstanding example of the feedback loop. People and organizations are now obliged to take notice of social media comments from others because that feedback can cause organizational crises. Instead of just pushing messages, organizations need to respect their stakeholders by listening more to their views.
I’ve seen the benefits myself. In fact I did it myself in business facilitation about 12 years ago when I did some business coaching. The whole coaching method was based on facilitation and was extremely effective. Rather than telling people what to do, the facilitator helps people reach their own conclusions based on their own knowledge and experience.
This approach is effective in both in-house communication roles as well as in PR firms with clients. If you explore an issue or problem by asking questions, you can lead to better outcomes. Asking questions is especially useful if you disagree with the other person or group, or if it is not appropriate to push your opinions on the others such as senior management. This means you don’t have to argue with them. By asking questions, you can lead them to form conclusions themselves.
What’s more, asking enough good questions is often the key to creativity. Some of the most creative people in the world say information gathering is the key to creativity, and that listening well and persisting with questions is central to identifying big creative ideas.
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Above photo by Kevin Clarke on Unsplash.
By Silvia Arto, Vice President of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, Chair of the European Regional
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