A frequent lament among business leaders (and family members alike) is that people don’t listen. It is especially evident when someone is trying to instruct others (a.k.a., tell them what to do). When I hear this complaint from my clients or in my executive seminars, I frequently chide them with this, “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason—to listen twice as much as you talk!”

I also ask audiences, “What is the opposite of listening?” Most people answer, “talking.” Not true, I tell them, “The opposite of listening is formulating your retort, a refutation of what the other person is saying, or simply thinking about the next thing you want to say.”

A powerful way of listening, particularly when you are trying to convey or teach, is to ask questions. When you want someone to learn something, one way you can be sure they “get it” is to have the person tell you what you’ve told them in their own words. And, I believe the best way to do that is to ask questions. When the person answers your question, ask another, deeper question. This gives a whole new dimension to the phrase, “Ask, don’t tell” when you are trying to communicate effectively.

If you want someone to listen to you, ask questions. In other words, peel the onion with a question followed by another question, and you listening to the responses until you’re sure you’ve communicated successfully, and to be certain any follow up actions are clearly understood.

People don’t learn very well when they are told what to do. The best method I know for teaching, or providing instructions, is to ask questions, listen carefully to the answers, and ask provocative follow-up questions. It’s all about the power of questioning.

Are you listening?


PS If you or any of your colleagues would like to learn more about how to increase productivity by improving communication within your team, focusing the culture of your workforce around a set of core values, or how to implement fundamental, effective, and practical management techniques, contact me at (858) 395-2850 or ken@kenmajer.com for a no-cost, no-obligation personal consultation.