Zen and the Art of Listening Part 3: The Key to Listening is How to Ask Appropriate Questions

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This week, I have been talking about listening because to be able to listen to others is crucial in sustainable prosperity since you want to cooperate with others to build a Sanpo-Yoshi society.


One way to measure how much you are listening is to measure how much you are asking questions. Questions require answers, so by asking questions, you are automatically getting others to speak.


Even when you are explaining something, you can throw questions here and there to make it interactive. For example as a coach, when I introduce the concept of goal setting, I first ask my client, “Do you usually set a goal when you start a new project?” or “Have you ever set a goal when you started a new project?” Then I let my client talk about his or her experiences with goal setting. Then I explain the fact that people usually have a higher rate of achieving their goals when they set clear goals.


In this way, the clients can become more interested in what I have to say because they talked about their personal experiences first and it is related to them now.


Depending on their answers, my explanation differs. Whether they liked goal setting or not, whether their setting goals worked for them or not, depending on that, I talk differently.


If you didn’t ask the question, you wouldn’t know how they feel about goal setting, and you might be explaining goal setting to someone who hates it, or someone who is an expert on it.


When I began coaching, one time I forgot to ask those questions and spent 10 minutes explaining how effective goal setting was. Then I asked the client, “Have you ever set a goal when you started a new project?”

“Yes, I have. As a matter of fact, I set goals all the time.”


“Yes, I teach goal setting.”



So, ask your questions.


By the way, you don’t need to listen to everything your conversation partner is saying. Some people go on about something that is not important. Not everybody can articulate their point. By asking appropriate questions, you can lead them to get to their point, too.


“What was the best part of it?”

“How did you feel after all?”

“What did you learn from it?”(This is something you can ask in a coaching session but not in other settings)


In everyday conversations, too, you can have meaningful conversations when you ask appropriate questions: Meaningful in terms of finding out about your friend.


“How did you feel when you did that?”

“Which ways of doing things do you feel more comfortable with?”

“What would you do, if anything is possible? If money or time isn’t an issue.”

“If you had to choose one thing that you want to accomplish in your life, what would you choose?”


By asking appropriate questions, you can know a lot about your friend in a few meetings. However, in most cases, we have spent a lot of time with our friends and still don’t know anything about them, do we? Let alone our wife or husband-haha.


Skills to ask questions is a part of coaching skills. Does it mean learning coaching skills helps you to succeed in the new era?


That will be tomorrow’s discussion.


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