What Are We Doing Here?

In which we learn to focus conversation with a single question before launching into broader discussion. Since I'm officially older than 18 years, I find that I'm more easily confused than my teenaged children when we're in conversation. They'll ask me questions or say things that leave me wondering, "What did that mean? How do I interpret this conversation?"

Gradually, I’m learning to ask the question, “What would you like from this conversation?” or variations thereof.

Their answers, ranging from, “nothing” to “I need a ride” to “I’m angry at so and so and I just want to tell you about it,” come very quickly so that easily-confused-Dad is tracking from the very beginning. I’m noticing that the conversations are either shorter or much fuller because I’m able to dance to the music from the very beginning of the song.

Same in sales calls. (Are you surprised?) Asking early in a conversation, “What would you like as an outcome from this meeting?” or “What prompted you to meet with me today?” or “What would you like from this conversation?” brings a very clear focus, quickly, much faster than the standard and very well respected, “Shall we set an agenda together?” The standard agenda setting question focuses on the “how” before really being clear about the “what we are trying to accomplish together.”

If the answer comes back, “Oh, gee, I don’t know, I just wanted to find out a few things about your company or products,” you know you’ve heard an incomplete answer that, depending on the circumstances, you can clarify by asking, “And, if you get what you’re looking for in the conversation, how will that help you?” HAH!

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