June 27, 2019
By Megan Winkeler
What if I told you there was one thing you could do to make people like you, build stronger relationships, and get more of what you want out of negotiations? It sounds too good to be true, but recent research points to one action you can take to help you achieve all of these goals: asking questions.
Researchers at Harvard Business School conducted a study observing natural conversations, and they found “a robust and consistent relationship between question-asking and liking.” When the people observed in the study asked more questions during conversations, their conversation partners perceived the listeners to be more responsive. That perception made the conversation partner feel heard, understood, cared about, and validated.
Asking questions, particularly during negotiations or difficult conversations, has myriad other positive effects:
Given the benefits of asking questions, why doesn’t everyone do it more often? Research suggests that people systematically underestimate how much others like them after conversations, and this liking gap causes people to focus too much on their own behavior rather than the person sitting across from them. Luckily, this research also found that simply asking questions is the most important and impactful way to increase how much people like you.
So how can you change your habits and harness the power of asking questions in your conversations and negotiations? Try the following advice:
If you struggle to ask questions during conversations or negotiations, don’t fret. Research shows that active listening and question-asking are skills that can be improved. Investing in skills training, such as negotiation or mediation workshops, combined with practice can help you improve your ability to consistently ask good follow-up questions. You can also build your awareness of your current conversation style to see how often you ask questions and where you can improve the most. In MWI’s trainings, we like to share a simple adage for thinking about the power of asking questions: you have two ears and one mouth; use them proportionally.
Interested in improving your ability to ask effective questions or helping your team improve their skills? Consider attending or organizing a training with MWI. Explore our negotiation and mediation training options, or contact Megan Winkeler directly at 617-895-4032 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how we can help you achieve your specific goals.