Have you ever asked a question, any question, and received a response that didn't quite answer what you asked?
It could be a teacher being asked about what she taught, a salesman, a friend or even your plumber.
Often, we tend to say what we know rather than to respond to what we have been asked.
What we know people usually ask
What we know the answers to.
Does this mean we don't know the answers to the question being asked?
It means we're not listening, or not doing so with our full attention.
This can be caused by different triggers.
What I call "on" mode – Moving forward unaware of what comes our way. The question isn't actually recorded. It's more like a familiar obstacle which is quickly placed into a designated box and shoved out of our way.
Been there done that – We honestly believe we know what is about to be asked, because we've heard it all before. We don't mean to answer your question, rather we hope to be effective. And so, the familiar, popular, most used answer is provided.
Fear – Many see questions as black holes. If we stop and listen, if we truly want to be accurate with our answers, it requires letting go. Agreeing to be in an unfamiliar terrain. Not knowing what will be asked, whether we will have the answer or even what feelings the question will arouse. What happens if we find ourselves questioning our own knowledge, thoughts, opinions because of these questions?
The who and why – Listening closely also means listening to the speaker not only the question. What are the needs leading to this question? How should our answer be phrased to enable the listener to fully understand and be open to thinking about the answer , especially in the face of conflict.
What will I have to do – Maybe the biggest fear of all. If we listen carefully, there may be a direct or indirect request for something we don't want to do or a conclusion we don't want to deal with.
But the truth is that people mainly want to feel they have our full attention and that we will do our best to help them.
People don't really expect anyone to have all the answers even if it's our professional expertise.
They expect us to be professional enough to understand the questions very accurately. They expect the expert to know where and how to find the answers they don't have.
Understanding and acknowledging what has been said or asked , even being empathic to the needs and requests we identified, does not necessarily create the obligation to act accordingly . It does, however, create the need for an explanation as to why we will not oblige.
The irony of the matter is that this fear of listening is what may cause the exact thing we wish to avoid –
Giving the impression that we are not experts
Causing a "realization" that precise, tailor made answers will not be given and therefore, needs will not be satisfied by us.
Creating a feeling that we don't care enough, we are not giving them our full attention and we are not doing our best.
These are three components that undermine relationships, sales and the ability to influence others.