Nine Ways Questions Can Transform Professional and Personal Relationships - Slide 10

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They can salvage a disastrous conversation.

Jerry Panas, co-author of “Power Questions,” recalls the time he asked a man named Allan for a million-dollar donation to his alma mater’s College of Engineering. Though he knew better, Panas failed to gain rapport and explore Allan’s true motivations before jumping in with the big request. When Allan rebuked him for his presumptuousness, Panas realized he had made a serious error. He apologized, left the room, and 20 seconds later knocked on the door and asked the power question, “Do you mind if we start over?” Start over they did, and Panas ultimately discovered that Allan might indeed be interested in making a gift — but to the University’s theater program, not its engineering program.

Things like this happen all the time in business — and at home. Interactions get off on the wrong foot, and someone gets angry or offended or just shuts down. But people are forgiving. They want to have a great conversation with you. Asking, “Do you mind if we start over?” will disarm the other person and make him smile. That smile will ease the way to a new beginning.

In his post, “Asking the Right Questions Can Have a Dramatic Impact on Your Life,” Don Tennant wrote about the importance of knowing what questions to ask in a given situation. The topic warrants further discussion, to elaborate on exactly why mastering the art of asking questions is so essential.

In that post Don shared some tips from Andrew Sobel, a management consultant, executive coach and co-author of “Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others,” about asking questions during a job interview. To underscore the importance of asking questions in a more general context, here are nine ways Sobel says questions can transform professional and personal relationships.

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