Are You Asking the Right Question?
I have to say, the fireworks in Disney World were truly impressive, but they weren’t half as impressive as what I saw the next day.
After another long, hot(!) day at the park, we went back to the hotel to relax by the pool in the evening. Apparently every other family had the same idea – it was packed.
My six-year-old son entertained himself by jumping into the shallow end, over and over again, to see how big of a splash he could make each time.
A social kid by nature (no big surprise, given who his mother is!), he was dying for another child to play with. So I watched, as he stood at the side of the pool each time, and asked any kid within a five-yard radius the same question:
“Wanna jump with me?”
It didn’t matter the gender, age, skin color, size, or native language. And there was no follow-up question about names, where they were from, favorite Disney ride, or other distinguishing information.
All that mattered was their answer: Yes, or No.
Before we knew it, he had amassed a miniature army of children lined up along the side of the pool, waiting for the countdown.
“Three… two… one… jump!”
On cue, they all jumped in together, laughing and splashing, then climbed out to do it again, often with a new addition or two to the group.
And just as beautiful was that on the other side of the pool was the little flock of parents – black, white, Asian, and LatinX – side by side, with video cameras recording the action together.
I caught the eye of two parents – one from Venezuela and one from Jamaica – and said, “This is how it’s supposed to be, isn’t it.” Their smiles beamed as they nodded their agreement.
All because my son figured out the one and only question that mattered in that moment, to connect with his audience, and get straight to the heart of what he (and they) cared about, in order to get the response he was looking for.
Any researcher will tell you that the quality of the questions you ask will directly impact the quality of the answers or results you get.
But how often do we struggle with asking the right question?
Sometimes we ask lots of peripherally relevant questions, but not “the $64,000 question,” as the old game show expression goes.
Maybe we know conceptually what we want to ask, but can’t find the words to articulate it clearly, succinctly, or diplomatically.
Maybe we DO know what the question is, but are afraid to ask it, so we dance around it with indirect references and diminishing words like “maybe” and “this probably isn’t important but…”
And sometimes we ask the question that seems most important to US, without realizing that it’s NOT the most important question for THEM.
We often overcomplicate things, when the right question may actually be very simple.
When I was 23, shortly after college, I moved to Los Angeles to become a teacher. Before I left, I asked my father, who taught public school for 40 years, one single question:
“Dad, how can I get the students to respect me?”
Although I didn’t process the depths of the wisdom he shared in the moment, his answer was one of the most seminal pieces of career advice I’ve ever received. He said:
“Laura, you can’t DEmand that they respect you; you have to COMmand it with your presence.”
In the spirit of Father’s Day this past weekend, thanks, Dad, for that piece of wisdom that turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving.
Someone else who knows a thing or two about creating a commanding presence and captivating an audience with both thought-provoking questions and entertaining, informative answers alike is Ryan Foland.
Ryan is a professional speaker, personal branding expert, stick-figure extraordinaire, and self-proclaimed “ginger.” He’s also the host of THREE different podcasts, and is the only person I know who has given more TEDx talks than I have. (I’ve given three; he’s given four.)
But what’s most important is that this Friday, 6/24 at noon ET, Ryan will be joining me for a FUN, FAST-PACED, and INFO-PACKED conversation on LinkedIn live: “How to Captivate Your Audience (Not Hold Them Captive!)”
Trust me – you won’t want to miss this ride!
Of course, we’ll record the interview and you can always catch the replay later if you can’t make the live event. But if you CAN join us live, you’ll have the chance to speak with us personally and ask your most burning questions about how to engage your audience.
You can RSVP for the event here.
And finally, here’s my final big question for you:
Who has been your favorite podcast guest and why?
Please cast your vote using this link: https://forms.gle/CPQQaRoA6HWm8RQV9
The episode with the most votes by 11:59pm ET this Friday 6/24 is the winner.
“But WHY should I vote, Laura?” you ask.
Another great question!
1.Because knowing what matters most to you helps me continue to provide the best content
2. PRIZES! Specifically:
a. The winning guest gets to donate a free membership to my online course, “Virtual Influence” to the person of her/his choice
b. The person with the most compelling reason for their vote also wins free access to my Virtual Influence course (a $1,497 value)
c. Everyone who votes for the winning episode wins a free digital copy of my book, Speaking to Influence: Mastering Your Leadership Voice
I can’t wait to hear your answers to my questions… and for that matter, any questions you want to ask me – so ask away!