Remember those “Can you hear me now?” commercials.
Verizon Wireless posed a question we’ve all asked on our cell phones. You identified with the story and connected with it every time you heard the ad and every time you asked the question while on your cell phone afterward.
Verizon’s marketing message was about reliability – the ability to connect and stay connected. In one ad, the announcer said Verizon “Covers the most people in the most places, but still we test.” The implication: who cares how many minutes you have if your call drops?
The word communication comes from the Latin “to share.”
To capture the meaning, communication is “the act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc. to someone else.”
Notice how easy it is to disconnect. What happens when you choose the wrong words, ignore the tone, send mixed signals, or your body language betrays the message? There is a disconnection: “No, I can’t hear you!”
The secret to connecting
When you ask someone for his or her thoughts or input, most people feel valued and respected. You engage them in their communication style. Asking invites participation, “Please stay, I want to hear what you think.”
Since birth, human beings resist being told what to do. Telling pushes people away.
The power of open-ended questions
Effective leaders set aside closed questions in favor of open-ended questions. Closed questions simply require a “Yes” or “No” answer: Did you like the restaurant? Or, they seek a selection from limited options: Do you want beef or chicken? Or closed questions seek a specific answer: What time does the restaurant close? Closed questions are the language of control.
Open-ended questions seek to share information, ideas, thoughts and lead to greater engagement. For example, instead of “Did you like the restaurant?” notice the impact of asking, “What did you like most about this restaurant?” Open-ended questions are the language of influence.
Asking open-ended questions – how, what, when, where, why (if you are careful with your tone) – invites people to stay connected. If you want to communicate and share more effectively, ask more (with open-ended questions) and tell less.
Can you hear me now?
Verizon’s campaign to connect us worked so well, it lasted over a decade and propelled them to be a contender in cell phone carrier status. I wonder why they chose to disconnect the actor, Paul Marcarelli and the “Can you hear me now?” campaign.
What’s your default style? Are you a “Teller” or an “Asker?” How does your communication style affect your connection with others? How do people respond when you share instead of control?
How skillful are you in asking open-ended questions?
Here’s to your connection,