Ask Questions to Achieve Better Results


“When we use the period less and the question mark more, we get the creative, problem-solving parts of the brain working to find real solutions,” says Richard Deason, CEO/President at Atlantic Coast Consulting Inc., based in Georgia. Besides, he adds, “People don’t care what you know—until they know that you care.”


Adopt these four strategies for using questions to get the job done right:


  1. Choose your words carefully. Starting a question with “Can,” “Is,” Are,” “Do” or “Did” all yield “Yes” or “No” responses that offer little information. Starting with “Who,” “What,” “Where” or “When” is better but doesn’t help solve big problems.


“Why” questions make people feel defensive. The best? Open-ended “What” and “How” questions, such as “What does the project need to look like at the end of the day?” and “How can we do this and still meet your budget?” Says Deason: “Then you get people creatively thinking about creative solutions that help you accomplish what you want to accomplish.”


  1. Listen closely. You may have to get comfortable with some uncomfortable silences at first, while clients consider your questions. When they’re ready to answer, put biases aside to be both attentive and open to hearing about bureaucratic red tape or other obstacles they may have to maneuver. “You have to really listen to understand their perspective,” Deason says.


  1. Build rapport. Getting clients to talk about themselves “establishes a strong and instant connection because they feel you’re really interested,” notes Deason. There are several ways to show curiosity—about their background, what’s going on in their lives, how they like their job.


  1. Practice with your own team. Brainstorming questions instead of solutions keeps the creative process flowing. Statements make the logical part of your brain kick into gear, keeping you stuck in over-analyzing mode, but when somebody asks for an opinion, “You go into Google mode and start searching for an answer,” says Deason. Run through a brainstorming session with potential questions before a client meeting, and you’ll “get closer to being on board with how the client wants it to get done.”