Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Questions vs. Statements

My mom loves to ask me a zillion questions, "What are you up to?" What's going on?" I know she means well and that the questions come from a loving place, she is my mom after all. However, the peppering of questions has the effect of causing me to clam up. In the face of the Inquisition, I've got nothing to say. It's not as if I ever mean to keep any secrets, I just want to get there on my own good time. In contrast my husband is a much quieter sort who waits for it. He's never short of details.

Don't ask questions as much as make statements, building on what you just heard....
Seth Godin


This kernel of listening wisdom sat with me because I thought good listeners were supposed to ask lots of questions. However, making statements allows the listener to clarify or summarize the information they are receiving, while still allowing the speaker to lead the conversation. Questions push the story into different corners. I start off in one direction, aiming to meandering into this and that, but end up hog tied in a territory I never meant to go in the first place. No wonder it creates frustration.

I pepper people all the time and do exactly what annoys me to others as well because I thought questions showed interest. Whereas, it's the statements about what someone is saying that demonstrate listening.

The next time you pick up the phone, see an old friend, or have a chat, let the speaker amble. See where they take you. My guess is that the leisurely conversation will saunter into interesting territory if you let it follow a natural course.

There seems to be such a rush to squeeze out the details. So much minutiae makes me feel frantic. Slow sure steps are comforting. I long for those folks who don't speak much and know how to remain quiet. Is anyone quiet anymore? It all comes in time. Maybe we just fear time?

I spent an hour at the post office and a lot of dollars sending some Valentines to Japan (some belated holiday greetings). The unspoken pain of being in a line for nearly an hour was relieved when cheers broke out with my departure. "Beware of the lady with bags!" I called as I stuffed my three empty sacks into my purse. We all chuckled.

Statements not questions get to the heart of what someone is thinking.

A Valentine Treat