Although I am a curly-haired brunette version of Little Miss Chatterbox, I seldom do small talk. I ask questions – lots of them.
I also seldom read anything longer than a magazine article. But, I am a big fan of the Harvard Business Review – topical, well-researched, easy-to-read, magazine-style articles with great graphics. I particularly love the article “The Surprising Power of Questions” because it confirms what is obvious to me: “Sustained personal engagement and motivation – in our lives as well as our work – require that we are always mindful of the transformative joy of asking and answering questions”.
The article gives tips on how to have competitive conversations and cooperative conversations (see the table below). I fundamentally believe that cooperative conversations are the only way for long-term business relationships to operate successfully (if you are involved in one of them, see the bottom section of the table below).
When coupled with active listening, “questions and thoughtful answers foster smoother and more-effective interactions, they strengthen rapport and trust, and lead groups toward discovery”.
“A conversation is a dance that requires partners to be in sync – it’s a mutual push-and-pull that unfolds over time. Just as the way we ask questions can facilitate trust and sharing of information – so too can the way we answer them”.
“But we believe questions and answers have a power that goes beyond matters of performance. The wellspring of all questions is wonder and curiosity and a capacity for delight. We pose and respond to queries in the belief that the magic of a conversation will produce a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts”.
Boom! "A whole that is greater than the sum of its parts". That is what a successful business relationship should be.