Tag: Questions

Communication Skills for Building Teams

Communication Skills for Building Teams

Strong communication skills are essential for assertive interaction with others in a team. Humans are social animals and communication is a very important part of our daily life. Every interaction we have with another person including, face to face, over the phone, chatting online or even texting is communication happening, and having strong communication skills will benefit every type of interaction we encounter.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Listening and Hearing in Teams

Hearing is the act of perceiving sound by the ear. Assuming an individual is not hearing-impaired, hearing simply happens. Listening, however, is something that one consciously chooses to do. Listening requires concentration so that the brain processes meaning from words and sentences.

Listening leads to learning, but this is not always an easy task. The normal adult rate of speech is 100-150 words per minute, but the brain can think at a rate of 400-500 words per minute, leaving extra time for daydreaming, or anticipating the speaker’s or the recipient’s next words.

As opposed to hearing, listening skills can be learned and refined. The art of active listening allows you to fully receive a message from another team member. Especially in a situation involving anger or a tense interchange, active listening allows you to be sensitive to the multiple dimensions of communication that make up an entire message. These dimensions include:

The occasion for the message: What is the reason why the team member is communicating with me now?

The length of the message: What can the length of the message tell me about its importance?

The words chosen: Is the message being made formally? Is it with aloofness or slang?

The volume and pace: What clues do the loudness and speed give me?

The Pauses and Hesitations: How do these enhance or detract from the message?

Non-verbal clues: What does eye contact, posture, or facial expressions tell me about the message?

Empathy is the capability to share and understand another’s emotions and feelings. Empathetic listening is the art of seeking a truer understanding of how other team members are feeling. This requires excellent discrimination and close attention to the nuances of emotional signals. According to Stephen Covey in “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, empathetic listening involves five basic tasks:

  1. Repeat verbatim the content of the communication; the words, not the feelings
  2. Rephrase content; summarize the meaning of the words in your own words
  3. Reflect feelings; look more deeply and begin to capture feelings in your own words. Look beyond words for body language and tone to indicate feelings.
  4. Rephrase contents and reflect feelings; express both their words and feelings in your own words.
  5. Discern when empathy is not necessary – or appropriate.

Asking Questions in Teams

Active listeners use specific questioning techniques to elicit more information from speakers. Below are three types of questions to use when practicing active listening in your team.

Open Questions

Open questions stimulate thinking and discussion or responses, including opinions or feelings. They pass control of the conversation to the respondent. Leading words in open questions include: Why, what, or how, as in the following examples:

  • Tell me about the current employee orientation process.
  • How do you open the emergency exit door on an A320 aircraft?

Clarifying Questions

A clarifying question helps to remove ambiguity, elicits additional detail, and guides the answer to a question. When you ask a clarifying question, you ask for expansion or detail, while withholding your judgment and own opinions. When asking for clarification, you will have to listen carefully to what the other person says. Frame your question as someone trying to understand in more detail. Often asking for a specific example is useful. This also helps the speaker evaluate his or her own opinions and perspective. Below are some examples:

  • I can tell you are really concerned about this. Let me see if I can repeat to you your main concerns so we can start to think about what to do in this situation.
  • What sort of savings are you looking to achieve?

Closed Questions

Closed questions usually require a one-word answer, and effectively shut off discussion. Closed questions provide facts, allow the questioner to maintain control of the conversation, and are easy to answer. Typical leading words are: Is, can, how many, or does. While closed questions are not the optimum choice for active listening, at times they may be necessary to elicit facts. Below are several examples of closed questions:

  • Who will lead the meeting?
  • Do you know how to open the emergency exit door on this aircraft?

Body Language

Body language is a form of non-verbal communication involving the use of stylized gestures, postures, and physiologic signs which act as cues to other people. Humans unconsciously send and receive non-verbal signals through body language all the time.

Non-verbal communication is the process of communication through sending and receiving wordless messages. It is the single most powerful form of communication in a team. Nonverbal communication cues others about what is in your mind, even more than your voice or words can do.

According to studies at UCLA, as much as 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues, and the impact of performance was determined 7 percent by the words used, 38 percent by voice quality, and 55 percent by non-verbal communication.

In communication, if a conflict arises between your words and your body language, your body language rules every time.

 

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Improve Communication With Your Team By Asking Good Questions

Improve Communication With Your Team By Asking Good Questions

Good questioning skills are essential to successful communication with your team. In this blog, we will look closer at questioning techniques that you can use throughout the communication process.

Open Questions

Open questions get their name because the response is open-ended; the answerer has a wide range of options to choose from when answering it.

Open questions use one of six words as a root:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • Why?
  • How?

Open questions are like going fishing with a net – you never know what you’re going to get! Open questions are great conversation starters, fact finders, and communication enhancers. Use them whenever possible when communicating with your team.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Closed Questions

Closed questions are the opposite of open questions; their very structure limits the answer to yes or no, or a specific piece of information. Some examples include:

  • Do you like chocolate?
  • Were you born in December?
  • Is it five o’clock yet?

Although closed questions tend to shut down communication, they can be useful if you are searching for a particular piece of information from your team, or winding a conversation down.

If you use a closed question and it shuts down the conversation, simply use an open-ended question to get things started again. Here is an example:

  • Do you like the Flaming Ducks hockey team?
  • Who is your favorite player?

Probing Questions

In addition to the basic open and closed questions, there is also a toolbox of probing questions that you can use. These questions can be open or closed, but each type serves a specific purpose.

Clarification

By probing for clarification, you invite the other person to share more information so that you can fully understand their message. Clarification questions often look like this:

  • “Please tell me more about…”
  • “What did you mean by…”
  • “What does… look like?” (Any of the five senses can be used here)

Completeness and Correctness

These types of questions can help you ensure you have the full, true story. Having all the facts, in turn, can protect you from assuming and jumping to conclusions – two fatal barriers to communication.

Some examples of these questions include:

  • “What else happened after that?”
  • “Did that end the…”

Determining Relevance

This category will help you determine how or if a particular point is related to the conversation at hand. It can also help you get the team member back on track from a tangent.

Some good ways to frame relevance questions are:

  • “How is that like…”
  • “How does that relate to…”

Drilling Down

Use these types of questions to nail down vague statements. Useful helpers include:

  • “Describe…”
  • “What do you mean by…?”
  • “Could you please give an example?”

Summarizing

These questions are framed more like a statement. They pull together all the relevant points. They can be used to confirm to the team member that you heard what was said, and to give them an opportunity to correct any misunderstandings.

Example: “So you picked out a dress, had to get it fitted three times, and missed the wedding in the end?”

Be careful not to avoid repeating the team member’s words back to them like a parrot. Remember, paraphrasing means repeating what you think the team member said in your own words.

 

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