I’ve been playing with feedback again lately, and I am currently fascinated with the response people have when asked a good question. They usually smile!
Interestingly, research on influence shows that having a smile on your face makes you more influential and more successful in relationships (Womack, Hertenstein). And, importantly, authentic smiles are more effective than fake ones. So check this out: I can help you influence me if my question makes you smile. Just think of the therapy and training costs you can avoid!
So what kind of questions make people smile? Often they get right to the heart of a matter and disarm someone who is feeling defensive, causing them to relax, and smile in relief. Other times, they reveal something new to the person being asked, so the discovery makes them smile in delight.
Either way, I think that asking a good question makes it easier for someone to answer and they appreciate the help.
I think the best questions, start with a small disclosure or observation, showing that you’ve noticed something about the other person or need their help with something.
Here’s a few examples:
I noticed you seemed confused by my presentation. Is there something I could have done better? (Disarming)
Did you know your input during the meeting really helped me? (Discovery) How could I have gotten to that point more quickly?
I’m hoping to get a promotion soon. (Disclosure) What should I be working on to increase my chances of getting it?
It probably helps if you smile while you ask your question. Okay, everybody head to a mirror to see if you smile when you talk. It works!