5 Hacks To Bravely Ask Questions in Your Next Business Meeting in English (No Grammar Revision Needed!).
How do you feel about asking questions in a business meeting in English? Comfortable? Confident? Excited? Impatient to ask?
Or are you someone who avoids asking questions at all costs?
Just ask your questions. Sounds so easy, doesn’t it?
But is it?
Let me offer you some reasons why you don’t ask questions.
> You’re afraid the other person won’t understand you because of your accent or pronunciation.
> You’re so focused on sharing your thoughts (speaking) as quickly as possible you don’t even think of asking questions.
> You’re too ashamed that your ‘bad’ English will make you look less professional.
> You’re scared that your ‘less than perfect’ grammar may lead you to ask the wrong question and make you appear rude.
> You’re convinced that you lack the vocabulary to ask good questions.
> You don’t want to waste anyone’s time by asking ‘silly’ questions.
So, what do you do?
You focus on speaking – on presenting your ideas – and leave the questions to someone else.
You tell yourself that it’s better to concentrate on your message (speaking) because you have time to prepare for that (you’re in control). It feels ‘safer’.
Plus, who knows what people might ask you? So it’s best to keep talking (and going over your allotted time too)
What’s wrong with that?
When you focus on just speaking, you’re not listening.
And if you’re not listening, you’re not communicating.
“Great communicators listen more than they speak.” (Susan M Heathfield)
However, if you don’t ask questions, you can’t listen.
Here’s what happens when you ask questions.
> You’re able to understand the contract, conditions and not rely on feelings.
> You are able to engage with your partners.
> You gain insights into the other person or business.
> You develop a deeper understanding of your clients’ needs, the other person’s perspective, your colleague’s concerns
> You create innovative solutions to your company’s problems.
> You build strong bonds with people.
> You show you care about the other person’s opinions and concerns.
“Asking questions doesn’t mean you don’t know your job, asking questions means you want to improve the quality of your work.” Robert Allen
And the best part? The questions don’t have to be hard!
No need for grammar-perfect, complex words to ask your question. In fact, the simpler the question, the better.
Phew! What relief.
Also, questions help the person you’re talking to spend time doing what they love — talking about themselves.
Here are 5 steps to get you asking questions in your next meeting without worrying about your grammar or vocabulary.
#1: Start with basic, broad questions.
Open questions (you know, those wh- questions you were taught in English class) are an excellent way of getting people to open up and talking broadly about whatever it is you want to know or learn from them.
Here are some examples of simple, open questions:
What business are we really in, what is our added value?
> Why do you think this has happened?
> What are all the things that might have caused this problem?
> How can we reduce customer complaints?
> Why do you think he feels that way?
> What other possibilities should we consider?
> What is the one thing I should do to make things better for you?”
#2: Then, sit back and LISTEN.
Take notes. Don’t be tempted to interrupt with your opinions. Don’t rush in to speak or ask your next question.
Let the other person speak and listen to learn.
This is your chance to take the spotlight off yourself and focus on the other person.
Let them do the talking while you relax for a bit.
#3: If you need more information, ask a follow-up question.
Research suggests that follow-up questions don’t require much preparation because they occur naturally from the answers your interlocutor gives you.
What a relief! No need to rack your brains to come up with a brilliantly phrased sentence.
Plus, follow-up questions signals to the other person you care, are listening, want to know more.
This can only enhance your relationship.
#4: Get specific
Once you have a mindmap of the main points, you can ask for specific information.
Closed questions are better because it steers the other person to give you specific or yes/ no answers.
Here are some examples of closed questions:
> When did this happen?
> Was he angry?
> Where is the shipment right now?
> Did you authorise the payment?
> What was his response.
By giving the other person a limited choice of responses, you’ll get the specific information you need to steer the conversation in a particular direction.
#5: Keep the tone light and beware of your body language
Nobody likes to interrogated. The best way to avoid that is to keep your questions friendly and unthreatening.
Don’t ask accusing questions: “Were you responsible for this disaster?” Try this instead: “What do you think happened?”
Check your body language – no finger pointing and don’t lean forward when asking your questions. That’ll look too menacing.
Start Asking Questions
Practise asking questions in your everyday conversations.
Instead of telling someone something, ask them a question and listen to their answer.
You might learn something surprising.
“I never learn anything talking. I only learn things when I ask questions.” Lou Holtz
When we’re faced with a difficult task in negotiations or a business meeting (like asking questions), we need to remember that communication is different from academically correct speaking.
Your communication skills can be developed (as you negotiate and participate in meetings), and they don’t require textbooks and tests.
#Tell Me: When you speak, do you tend to communicate more or are you obsessed with correctness?
Enjoyed this post? Please share it with your friends and co-workers if you think they need to know how to overcome their terror of asking questions.