Ten questions for better discussions at work
Small talk is great but here are the questions to get to better conversations
1. Tell me your thinking behind X
Not just "why did you do X" because using 'why' can be very accusatory. Instead, asking people to explain their thinking behind an action they took can help you understand where they are coming from.
2. What happened?
When something goes wrong or someone makes a mistake, don't go in guns blazing asking "why did you do this" or "tell me why you made this mistake" - again, why is accusatory. Instead, you'll get a better response if you ask what happened.
3. If you were in my shoes, what would you do?
Sometimes, putting yourself in another's shoes or putting someone else in your shoes can be the best way forward.
4. If you knew the right answer, what would you say?
Sometimes, your team knows what the right answer is but they don't have the confidence to say it out loud. This question gives them an opportunity to say it.
5. I see X, Y and Z. Help me understand what else I'm missing that would be important to understand.
When discussing projects or reports or presentations, it's great to understand what is there but also to understand what isn't there. Risks, errant data, power players behind the scenes that aren't on your side - these are all good to know.
6. Could you walk me through and tell me how you got 'X'?
Just because someone gives you the wrong data / information / answer / conclusion doesn't mean that they are wrong. They could be seeing something you're not.
7. Have you considered "Y"?
Not a straight up "hey you're missing Y". Again, maybe they (team, boss, executive) have already considered it and left it out for a good reason.
8. What evidence would you have to see to change your mind?
When arguing, if you can't present any evidence that would change the other person's mind then don't argue. If you ask this question and the other person tells you what evidence they need, then find that evidence.
9. How am I supposed to do that?
Chris Voss' negotiation question. It throws the ball back into the other person's court.
Will you take $200k starting salary with a 20% bonus?
How am I supposed to make that salary work in this expensive city?
10. And what else?
Michael Bungay Stanier's Lazy Question. It's a great question because the other person has to do the work in determining if there is anything else to talk about.