How Are You Sleeping? The Importance of Curious Questions in the Workplace
"How are you?" - Good. "Are you OK?" Yep.
Many of us often answer such questions on default mode. I sometimes answer without thought, having not stopped first to reflect on my answer, and then when I realise my answer was inaccurate, it feels too late to go back and correct it.
A key resilience skill - particularly in times of stress, uncertainty, pressure or fear - is our ability to connect with those around us. One of the most effective ways to do this, is through the use of "curious questions". More than just open ended questions, curious questions allow us to more deeply connect with other peoples situations. They can help open people up, giving them a greater sense of being seen and hopefully understood.
By leaning in and asking curious questions, you can create a richer more honest conversation that provides true insight as to what's really going on below the water for someone. By taking the time to ask and really listen, you might discover what factors are really influencing someone else's thoughts, behaviour and actions. In turn, they will likely feel more valued as a whole person and more supported too.
In the workplace, you can create more opportunities for curious conversations with colleagues, by letting people know that you’re available anytime for coffee and a chat – whether in person or digitally. Have a pre-think about what you want to ask and how - particularly if it might be a difficult conversation. Finding the most effective language in the moment can be challenging, so take the time to prepare some safe options in advance.
My go-to list of curious questions are:
What’s been happening lately?
How have you been sleeping?
Tell me more about....?
What led you to make that decision?
How do you feel about how that situation unfolded?
How can I help you?
What were you able to learn from the situation?
Were things handled in the right way?
Would you do/say anything differently next time?
Who do you usually talk to about things like this?
Feel free to use any of these questions or please share some of your own in return (I always love learning from others)!
And just remember, when someone takes you up on the offer of a conversation, give them the time and space to talk and share with you. Silence is OK, and you don't need to have any/all the answers.
Asking more curious questions will take the conversation where it needs to go, and then you can end by thanking them for their honesty and trust!
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