A few weeks ago, our team delivered a well-attended and enthusiastically received webinar on the behavior we call “fierce listening.” (You can watch the replay here.)

It’s not a tough argument to make that listening is essential in showing respect and building trust. What’s challenging about this behavior is living it. We’re easily distracted—most often by our drive to share our thoughts or ideas. It takes deliberate effort to strengthen our listening behavior.

Questions are Critical to Developing Your Fierce Listening Skills

And while listening is essential for successful communication, the behavior that sets the stage for Fierce Listening is artful and empathic questioning. Our use of questions—type and tone—controls the direction of the dialog.

Use questions correctly, and you showcase empathy and curiosity and stimulate critical thinking and, ultimately, learning. Good questions defuse tensions, shift disagreements into mutual pursuits for solutions, and create understanding.

Alternatively, questions can be blunt, manipulative objects that cast aspersions and raise indictments.

How are you using questions?

Are you using questions to explore, connect, strive to understand, defuse, and ultimately, find solutions?

Do you have a positive questions-to-comments ratio in your interaction with others?

Do people seem to wilt or light-up when you ask questions?

When faced with a problem, are you quick to offer solutions or, do you pause to ask questions?

When you are on the receiving end of an “ask” in the workplace, how many questions do you ask to attempt to understand the other party’s situation better before you offer your answer?

Slow Down, Ask Questions, and You Might Move Faster in the Right Direction

In a great Leadership Caffeine podcast interview with Dan Markovitz, author of The Conclusion Trap: Four Steps to Better Decisions, we talk about the risks of jumping to decisions too fast. We all do it in part because that’s how our brains are wired. In reality, we need to override this circuitry and strive to understand before jumping to conclusions. As Dan suggests, we have to work hard to make sure we’re solving the right problem. To do that, we have to learn to ask the right questions.

The Bottom-Line for Now

Fierce Listening is an excellent behavior to cultivate for many reasons. Listening, driven by the artful and empathic use of questions, is a powerful combination that will serve you well. Now, how might you improve your questions-to-comments ratio?

Art's Signature