I’ve given a lot of advice. Some of it has been asked for, some of it not — all of it with the best of intentions, but it has not always been good.
But even good advice can be bad because it can prevent us from hearing something far more important.
About a month ago, I was challenged by a coach to stop giving advice.
“What about when people ask for it?” I said.
She was silent.
Her silence said enough: advice is easy — anyone can give it.
What’s more difficult for people to hear is that still small Voice inside of them.
But it’s exactly this encounter that world class people developers help their friends experience. Because it’s responding to that inner Whisper that determines whether or not someone is living the truth or a lie.
To live the truth is to be set free. And free people are always more themselves, no longer bound by the script of another.
The following are 3 skills that master people developers employ to help others discover that sacredness within.
1. Ask Powerful Questions
“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”
— Thomas Berger
So, what is a powerful question? Well, “what’s a powerful question?” is NOT a good example of a powerful question.
Most basically, a powerful question has as its aim, to help the other engage in curious reflection.
Powerful questions are open-ended, not relegated to “yes” or “no.”
Powerful questions aren’t fact-based but help the other observe, evaluate, and assess the forces that are shaping their life.
Powerful questions help people curiously engage their life.
Here’s an over-simplified example:
Not great question: “What’d you eat for breakfast?” (fact based — no reflection needed)
Better question: “What’s one of the most memorable breakfasts you’ve had and why does it stand out?” (reflection and curious exploration required)
Asking great questions, is important. But there’s a second skill that you have to develop to in order to really start helping someone else hear.
You have to model listening.
2. Listen like Your Life Depends on it
“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” — Hemingway
What’s the point of asking a great question if you’re not going to listen for the answer?
If you won’t, how do you expect the person across from you to?
We’ve all done it. We ask someone their name at a gathering and 10 seconds later, we can’t remember it. We smiled and nodded when they told us, but now we can’t remember. And we all say the same thing. “I’m so bad with names.”
Well friend, I have news for you. You’re not bad at names. You just didn’t care about what they were saying.
Cause we remember what’s important to us.
If I gave you $1,000 to remember everyone’s name that you met at that same party, you’d find a way.
And that’s the thing about listening — you will listen if it matters to you.
In order to be a better listener, ask questions that you’d like to hear answered.
Now, if you begin asking great questions and listen long enough to hear, you are on your way to truly helping develop and even liberate another.
The final skill is the simplest but the most difficult. It has the potential to drive you momentarily mad. But you must. For the sake of the person you’re seeking to bless. Do it.
Let silence speak.
3. Embrace the Silence
“Silence is a source of great strength.” — Lao Tzu
You ask a great question. You see the other hemming and hawing. Your instinct is to jump in and rescue. Don’t.
This process of reflection is important. They’re not annoyed. You’ve just jolted them out of autopilot and into a different mode of being and hearing. They’re listening to themselves in ways that they haven’t. Let them hear.
Assuming they’re not confused by a question poorly worded, you’ve entered into a sacred place. It’s a place of transformation and love. And you do not want to ruin it because the silence is awkward for you.
If you start feeling fidgety and uncomfortable, ask yourself, “Why do I feel the need to speak? What in me needs to fill this space with chatter? Resist this.
“Silence is true wisdom’s best reply.” — Euripides
Practice asking great questions, listening like your life depended on it, and embracing silence well and you’re on your way to being among the world’s greatest people developers.