As I’ve mentioned before, for years I have gained much insight and pleasure from being involved in the TEDx community. It has served as a forum to feed my brain and last week I attended an event that once again did just that. I attended a dinner salon where I had the pleasure of hearing a talk given by Adam Grant. Adam is certainly an impressive gentleman. Not only is he the youngest tenured professor at Wharton Business school, he is also their single highest rated professor. Did I mention, he completed his PhD in 3 years?
At last week’s event, Adam highlighted how altering the way you speak could change how far ahead you get in business. He proposed that shifting to a more passive way of speaking would make one seem more approachable and thereby help one get ahead. He suggested one way to accomplish this more approachable way of speaking was to begin asking more questions as opposed to answering them. For example saying, “do you think we should change this?” Instead of assertively saying, “we should change this!”
The moment I heard this, I turned to the person sitting next to me and said, “that is exactly how you should talk to children!” As a teacher, I have often reflected on the way we use language with children and how the words we choose can have different effects. I have come to appreciate the power of questions with young children. As we all know, children will ask what can seem like hundreds of questions per day. However, the worst thing we can do is answer each of these questions! The best moment comes when you turn the question back on the child and ask, “What do you think about that?” Immediately the child’s wheels start turning and they produce a creative and thoughtful answer. I savor that moment each time it happens.
I started to wonder how this would work with adults. As Adam proposed, asking more questions is the way to seem more approachable, more like a team player and more like a person that others want to promote. It is so interesting to me that while my immediate instinct is to ask children questions, I have not already applied the same technique to my adult and professional interactions. I am eager and excited to begin using this more often in the workplace and I am also proud to continue using this technique in my classroom!
What do you think?