Leslie Ungar, The Inner Brilliance of Electric Impulse, Inc.

Are You Two Questions Short of Paradise?

Leslie’s Articles

I got to the airport in time . . . or so I thought.
I diligently went to the airline desk to inquire about arrivals.
A point in one direction from the airline personnel, and off I went to meet my mother.

Where security and allowable open space met, I waited.
I waited and waited. With each wave of arriving passengers my hope rose, only to fall as entire planeloads of assorted passengers unloaded and shuffled past me.

One hour later I found her . . . in the baggage department. I wanted to blame the airlines; blame my mom for not bringing her cell phone, blame the whole airport for having two separate ways from which to exit.

The real culprit? Me.
I stopped two questions short of paradise.

At the airline desk, I asked if her flight had landed. “Yes”, was the reply.
“Where can I meet her”? I was instructed where to go to meet arriving passengers. What I did not ask, “is there another exit?” “Is there another way she can get to baggage?”

Had I asked two more questions I would not have lost my mother in baggage.
Here’s my premise: I submit to you that we all fall two questions short of paradise. Let’s apply this hypothesis.

A friend calls and asks you, “Would you like to join us for dinner?” “Sure”, you respond. You drive 20 miles to find it closed on Monday.
You stopped two questions short. Two questions would have prevented you from taking a drive to a closed location. You could have asked,
“Are they open on Monday”? or “Which of us will call?”

Let’s look at another scenario. You want to reserve a hotel room.
“I’d like to make a reservation for two nights”, you say to the reservation desk.
You stopped two questions short.
You could have asked, ”is there a weekend package?”
“Do you have a points program?” might be the second question you could ask to get to the promised land-paradise. Paradise for you might be a correct answer, a lower price, or a yes from a client or prospect.

We only learn when we are asking; we don’t learn when we are talking.
A clear rule of communication is that the person asking questions is in control. The person answering the questions thinks they are in control. One of the few win-wins in life!

Statements stop discussion, period. Questions move you forward, toward your desired destination. The second and third questions frame the issue. “Do you have the authority to sign off on this project?” you might ask. Yes, the prospect has the authority. Perhaps they choose not to exercise their authority and intend to include others in the decision making process. If you stop after question #1, you will be two questions short of paradise.

Just because the prospect has the ability to signoff on the project does not mean he/she want to take full responsibility. The second question could be, “do you want to include anyone else in this decision?” The third question might be, “I understand that the expenditure will come out directly out of your budget, is that right”?

Picture a White House press conference.
Those pesky white house reporters vie for attention with the infamous line, Mr. President, Mr. President.
After the lucky reporter gets their question answered, are they satisfied?
No, they follow-up with a follow up question.
Why? Because the truth comes out in the second and third question.

It is imperative in the 21-st century to operate from a standpoint that you don’t know everything, period. And you don’t. There is too much information to know everything and that’s OK. When you ask a question only one of two things can happen. Either you confirm what you know or thought, which has great value. Or you learn something new, which has great value.

Even if you think you know the answer, ask the two questions. As a Communication Coach, I often say the rules of communication are clear and finite. One rule is this: nothing that comes after the words EVEN IF change what came before them. So EVEN IF you may think you know the answer doesn’t change the fact that you need to ask the questions.

What would a question sound like when you ask a follow up question to something you think you know the answer?

Ask: How do you know?

What is the evidence?

What are your perceptions?

If I asked two more questions I would not have left my mother in the baggage department or the sale on the table.