3.31.2008

Tell Me About School Today

I attended a management seminar today that dealt with various facets of managing time and resources in a work environment. Much of the class dealt with interpersonal communication, and held quite a few parallels and applications to life outside the office.

One section in particular focused on asking effective questions. After several small drills to illustrate his point, it was clear to the class that how you ask a question has almost as much to do with the answer you receive as what you actually ask. The lecturer quickly parlayed this into a real world example of interacting with his 13 year old son. His standard question "How was school today?" always garnered the customary response of "Fine" from the boy.

The speaker then relayed how a minor alteration in his question elicited far more information from his son. Instead of asking a very open question which prompts a vague and summary response such as "fine", he turned his question into a statement; "Tell me about school today." This minor tweak placed the conversational onus on his son rather than allowing him the scapegoat answer of "fine."

A question like "how was your day" or "how was school" is non-specific and requests a summary without any detail. "Tell me about your day" puts the subject matter in terms of the person who experienced it, asking them to pick out the items they saw most significant. It's a small technique, but one worth trying and with apparently little downside.

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