The First Question You Should Ask

Interviews, coworkers discussions, conversations with your boss, projects, even just the relationship with your spouse–all of these suffer from the same sickness: miscommunication. How many times has either the “wrong” response to a question or a squabble begun just because what someone meant wasn’t what you thought they said! Language is like a cross-platform technology that allows separate operating systems or programs communicate with each other. And, there are always, always going to be bugs.

That’s why I propose the following:

The question you should ask is: “tell me more.”

Tell me what you mean by that or “tell me more” is a way to acknowledge someone, show that you are listening, and make sure you hear their entire meaning is heard. Yes, it takes more time, but it saves a lot more in the long run. Try using the phrase, “tell me more” and you will be surprised at just how much might be behind someone’s words.

This can also be an especially foul trick on someone who is rude to you or insults you. For example, if someone says, “man, that shirt looks a little tight on you” and you reply, “oh yeah? Tell me more.” They can either dig a hole (which they will feel the effects from later, wondering all day why they didn’t just stop talking), or they can say, “woah, I’m so sorry that I ever thought that, I was wrong and I would ask your forgiveness.” Either way, by asking someone to explain the slight that they have given you, you take back control from them. They are no longer in control of the emotional climate.

How do you like that? Now you are back in the driver’s seat and you have only said three words. Nifty, eh?

Eventually someone will say, “That’s really all there is to say,” and then we can talk about the second best question to ask, which I will talk about tomorrow.








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