• Alexandra Bond Burnett

When is a question, not a question? How to ask with impact.

How many times have you asked them for that report? Or told them the deadline? Or asked someone to just get it done when you said it the first time?

Getting working relationships right is a challenge. Why isn’t anyone doing what you asked them to? Maybe you didn’t ask the right question.

I have this recurring problem when I write to clients (I’m better at speaking)… I keep writing statements with “If“.

Essentially, I am being very British which, forgive the stereotype, means I try to apologise for everything. It’s a cultural behaviour. Like queuing. And hats at Ascot. Sorry.

“If it’s at all possible could you to get back to me by the 30th?”

They won’t get back by the 30th. I’ve pretty much communicated,

“..or, y’know, Whenever. don’t rush. I’ll spend my time chasing you until November”

The thing is I should really know better. I often teach about open ended questions in my workshops. Firstly, is it even a question? The sentence should be is a request yes, but actually we might even call it a statement.

“Return this information by the 30th”

We fear being direct to people, which often leads to a lack of action

As a facilitator, I know that when I’m leading a large group there is no room for error and is essential to be clear as a bell.

It is imperative to make sure that you are kindly stating a demand, not giving the participant time to think – they just do.

It’s a closed command:

“Time to get up on your feet – and now move to the left side of the room. Once you get there think about one thing you would like to achieve from today’s session.”

No room for the participants to query the response. They go to the side of the room and start thinking. Fast paced clear communication = results.

Be an effective communicator

There is a big trend to ask questions when really, we need to be direct and receive the right result. The habit is to ask questions instead of clear commands – and then scratch our heads puzzled when the action has not taken place. When you ask a question you’ve given so much space for interpretation. Your indecision will make you a poor leader, and will in turn inspire passive aggressive reactions.

“Would you like to get back to me by Monday?”

“Could you to get that report to me today come out when you get a chance?“

“If you could have a look and invoice?“

All very polite of you, I have to say.

Is it effective? Are you getting the job done? Probably not. You’ve left the command open ended to do as they wish. Or you weren’t clear as to the urgency.

Clearer commands ensure that there is no margin for error

“Thank you for your work on this, I need you to get back to me on Monday. “

“Great work on the report so far, I need it sent to me by the end of the day. “

“Your invoice is overdue, payment needs to be received in seven days”

This is a persuasion technique that will be effective everywhere: sales, presentations, board meetings.. you name it.

It’s not about being rude, it’s about being totally transparent with your expectations. We hear the precise expectation and we are more likely to proceed. For the rest of the day – I would like you to see how many open or closed requests you make and change them. Tell me if you receive a better response – alexandra@bondambition.co.uk.

If that’s ok?

Email me today to book my Communicate with Impact workshop.