Twelve Magic Questions

Questions are necessary in better listening for several reasons. However, if the listening situation is intense or defensive or puzzling already, questions can escalate trouble. Make some Magic Questions with I-statements.

Sometimes it is helpful to make questions into I-statements. Here are Magic Questions for use To Learn and Understand: "I wonder what is the reason for...." "I want to understand more of the facts. What I have already is...." "I understand that...." 

Magic Questions To Clarify Meanings or Assumptions: "I wonder what you mean by...." "I wonder if you are assuming...." "I need some clarification, please, about..." "Let me see if I got this right...." "I may be mistaken, I think I heard you say...."

Magic Questions To Get Feedback: "I am ready to hear how you think this decision would affect you." "I need your help, I want to hear your opinion regarding...." "I need to hear from you about what I just said."

Magic Questions To Encourage Talking: "That worked, didn't it." "You say things began going wrong when...." "Tell me more." "I get the idea that you liked that very much." "I notice your restlessness in sitting here (or other specific non-verbal)." 

Magic Questions To Specify: "I wonder what specifically troubles you about...." "I need to know what specifically he/she did that bothers you." "I need your help, I want to hear what specifically you would change about...."

Magic Questions To Generalize: "We have brainstormed quite a few suggestions. Looking over our list, one might say...." "I've called you three times now and you've put me off each time." "I wonder if at the bottom of what you're telling me is...." 

Magic Questions To Summarize: "I have heard several main points so far:...." "I see three pieces to your puzzle:...." "While listening, I'm thinking these may be the key elements/factors/ideas in the situation:...."

Magic Questions To Focus: "I need your help. Let's try to pull out the best of these ideas now." "I think we're ready to vote on whether or not to...." "I wonder which solution you think would work best for us."

Magic Questions To Control Digressions: "I am still wanting to hear what I thought you were going to tell me about...." "I may be mistaken. I was expecting to hear your decision about...." "I'm interested to hear the rest of the story...."

Magic Questions To Control Circular Repetitions: "To summarize, this is what I am hearing you say.... I wonder if there is anything else about it that you haven't told me yet." "I think I have heard the key elements affecting.... I need to know if that is all."

Magic Questions To Absorb Attack: "Very possibly, I did.... It is helpful for me to hear how that has inconvenienced you and what you need from me now." "Yes, it is clear that we overlooked.... I can listen now to how that has hindered your work."

Magic Questions To Exhaust Attack: "I hear you telling me that..., I need to know if there's anything else about our interaction that bothers you." "I hear you say that our oversight badly disrupted your success. Please tell me how we can help you now."

Magic Questions To Establish Expectations: "I wonder what you would like to know from me by the time our twenty minutes together is finished." "I wonder if you'd be prepared to tell me after my presentation whether or not you can use my services." 

At the times when questions would only trouble the listening, try Magic Questions with I-statements. Be sure to use the statement inflection in the voice. Letting the pitch rise at the end of the statement gives it the feel of a plain question, not a magic one.

Copyright 2014 Wilma Zalabak