Ask, Don’t Tell

Another interesting “active listening” technique that I’ve learned by observation is: reframing a statement as a question. in other words, Ask, Don’t Tell. For example: if you “ask” someone when something should be completed, instead of “telling” them when it’s due, you will get a much more thoughtful/active response. You also don’t take ownership away from the other person. (You do want them to take ownership and not come to you with every problem or question, right?)

Another example of Ask Don’t Tell: Instead of “telling” the website owner that a website is below expectations on a certain measurement, like visits, instead “ask” how the website is performing to KPIs or compared to competitors. This simple restatement-as-a-question makes the website owner the active participant and keeps responsibility where it belongs. You’re stating the obvious but in a respectful way that let’s the other person retain the dignity of owning their own problems. They will also be much less defensive because you’re not calling them out on something – you’re asking for their input and opinion. They are also probably already aware of what you’re asking and likely working on a solution. Your question provides others the opportunity to share what they’re working on and not feel the need to be defensive about it.

I’ve noticed this technique used by some of the most successful people I know – like my boss, the CIO. It’s a simple differentiator that makes a huge difference in outcomes and in transferring ownership and responsibility to others. Try it. You’ll be surprised at the difference this one simple technique can make.