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Silence as a medium

Silence can be uncomfortable, and it can be tempting to rush to fill “dead air.” When silence falls upon a meeting or lands abruptly in conversation, it can be unsettling and anxiety-provoking. You may question the efficiency of communication or worry that your message has been misunderstood.

But silence is one of the most powerful communication tools we can use. When harnessed, silence allows room for focus, self-reflection, empathy, and introspection. Sometimes, silence is exactly what is needed for a creative storm to follow.

The next time you find yourself in a silent standoff with a friend or among colleagues… pause. Invite silence into the space and watch what blossoms.

“Everything that’s created comes out of silence. Thoughts emerge from the nothingness of silence. Words come out of the void. Your very essence emerged from emptiness. All creativity requires some stillness.”

Wayne Dyer
woman in blue suit jacket

7 steps to better questions

Better questions deepen relationships, build trust, and increase confidence. With intention and practice, your questions can become tools that strengthen your business and enhance personal relationships. Here are seven ways you can start:

1. Begin with an informed approach.

Before asking any questions, do your research. Learn more about the company, read up on the open position, see what you can find about the person you are interviewing. The best questions are grounded in knowledge. When you understand more about the person you’re speaking with, you can shape questions to be more engaging, thought-provoking, and relevant.

2. Get curious.

The best questions come from a genuine place of curiosity. Asking questions with sincere interest provides the platform for questions to serve as welcome invitations, not invasive challenges. Remember: Curiosity fosters excitement, and excitement is contagious. Your interest conveys positive intention.

3. Mirror spoken and unspoken language.

Notice the language used by the person you’re speaking with. Are they communicating in a formal tone or comfortable with casual phrases? How about their body language; are their hands folded in their lap or are their arms crossed over their chest? Just as you can mirror someone’s body language, you can also copy their speech. Observe patterns in pitch, vocabulary, and physical posture. You don’t need to imitate someone, but reflecting their physical and verbal communication styles can establish rapport and create a sense of familiarity.

4. Lead with empathy.

While asking questions, seek to understand that person’s worldview. What contributes to the way they see the world? How do they interpret events around them? Maintaining eye contact, using appropriate physical markers (nodding, facing your body towards the person you’re speaking to, and uncrossing your arms), and asking clarifying questions are ways to display empathy. Respect encourages openness and honesty.

5. Stay present.

If a difficult topic or answer arises, remain focused and grounded on the present moment. Do your best to avoid unnecessary distractions from your phone and the environment around you. If you’re struggling to hear the other person, make adjustments, and if the circumstance is too distracting, kindly ask to schedule another time to meet.

6. Open a door.

Open questions usher meaningful conversations. A question that can be answered by a “Yes” or “No” or a simple phrase won’t invite reflection or engagement. While open questions may be more challenging to ask (you’ll have to think carefully), these kinds of questions are more valuable for relationship-building. Here are a few examples of open and closed questions:

Closed: Did you have a good day?

Open: What was the best part of your day?

Closed: Did you like that product?

Open: Which feature was most valuable for you?

Closed: Do you like to travel?

Open: What’s your favorite travel memory?

Closed: Are you happy with our meeting?

Open: How are you feeling after our meeting?

The point of a good question is to open doors for conversation to take place.

7. Listen with intention.

After you ask a question, pay attention. Listening carefully after you’ve asked a question shows willingness to understand and learn. Instead of viewing silence as a rebuff, reframe it as a breath: You’re opening the bottle and giving ideas room to expand. Pause provides space for reflection and thought. Let the person fully explore your question and their answer.

How do you ask questions? Tell me on twitter @redheadlefthand.

turned off laptop computer

“Can coaching help me?” 7 questions to ask

Is coaching worth the investment?

Coaches can be the spark plug you need to move towards goals and become more aware of sabotaging patterns. A trained coach holds you accountable, charts your progress, and cheers as you make professional and personal strides. But how do you know which coach is right for you?

Before you choose to enlist a coach for extra support, get clear on the help you’ll receive. Research your coach’s background, training, and past success. Many coaches offer a complimentary session before you commit to working with them. Use that time to better understand the training and offerings of this professional. Here are a few questions you can start with:

Have you worked with other professionals in my industry?

Do you have a process for your work with clients?

How would you describe your coaching style?

What can I do to get the most out of our time together?

What is the most common struggle you see with clients?

Tell me about a time you helped a client and felt proud of their progress.

Do you provide outside resources — books, podcasts, worksheets?

Have you worked with a coach? Let me know @redheadlefthand.

The case for risk

We’re afraid of making our desires known. It’s scary to show pieces of ourselves to another, parts that make us vulnerable, the gentle spaces we perceive as fragile. It’s easier to hide behind accomplishment and labels and somebody else’s dreams.

what if I’m alone

what if I can’t make rent

what if it never happens

what if I’m found out

what if I fail

Fear morphs into competitive comparison as we scan the lives of colleagues and peers, anxiously wondering if we measure up. Our minds stop us from living, from allowing ourselves to just be.

Imagine if all that watching and playing it safe on the sidelines turned into focused energy.

Who do you want to be?

What do you want to do?

When I finally pushed doubt to the side, I became a writer. I became generous, forgiving, loving, and daring because I stopped caring about what didn’t matter in the first place and started paying attention to moments that made my heart swell.

I’m scared often.

I’ve had to get comfortable living with little in my bank account and not having a neatly packaged answer when people ask, “What’s next?”

But because of that, I’ve experienced beautiful mysteries I would have otherwise missed.

Life shouldn’t be neatly laid out.

Not the life I want to live.

Modified from this original post.

Become the student

As systems and communities continue to evolve and change, the need to learn and listen is paramount.

Where is the line between advocacy and appropriation, and how can you appreciate groups you’re not a part of?

Appreciation is grounded in honor and respect, a genuine curiosity for a group and its people. This rides on the wings of earnestness; a desire to explore and understand.

Appropriation, however, has personal gain buried into action. Attention-seeking behavior has the power to hurt and harm both individuals and groups. More often than not, a negative stereotype is reinforced.

The divide between cultural appreciation and appropriation is a delicate perimeter outlined by intention.

Failing to identify intention can turn any well-meaning action into a divisive mechanism. If your intention isn’t clear, chances are high that you may unintentionally play into harmful stereotypes.

Revisit the reasons behind what you’re doing and why — and who your behavior might reach. The more you understand yourself and the factors that contribute to the way in which you see the world, the better you’ll be at developing empathy and authentic respect. Once you’ve assessed the role of your actions and your relationship to the culture or group of people you’re interested in, set out to learn.

Bring curiosity and kindness into your interactions. Let others guide conversations. It’s important to remember that having an experience does not equal true understanding. Questions open doors. 

Genuine curiosity and kindness are roots from which appreciation and reverence can blossom. From intention, humility and respect grow.

The business of attraction

Chemistry is frequently considered in terms of human relationships, yet brands and businesses must also evaluate the chemistry they bring to their offerings.

Similar to personal relationships, initial sparks of excitement intensify interactions between business and consumer. From completed projects to the seal of a sale, emotion is embedded into business transactions. Skipping hearts and genuine smiles aren’t just for new loves; chemistry influences buying behavior.

How can brands weave chemistry into business?

As certain people are more open to the thrills of chemistry — those who are self-aware, thoughtful and personable — brands exhibiting similar traits can benefit from mindful demeanors.

Interest

Curiosity is how connection begins. When a business showcases what a client needs (or wants), the foundation for a relationship is set. To move prospects through the complete client journey, brands can plan for pleasant experiences to increase attraction and compel customers to engage in subsequent encounters.

Communication

Clear communication builds trust and rapport between entities. Communication is key for both business and relational development, ushering in assurance and confidence into business dealings. When communication is straightforward, expectations are fixed and boundaries for deliverables become reliable and well-defined.

Warmth

People and brands who present genuine, authentic traits are more likely to be perceived as considerate and understanding. Trust and loyalty hold weight in business circles, and positive dispositions enhance brands, attracting customers and keeping them returning for more.

Attraction

To be desired and perceived as desirable is something individuals and companies strive for. The most successful companies understand the value of appeal: They take time crafting beautiful products and experiences through careful branding and strategy.

Values

Values represent what you, or your company, stand for; they define why we do what we do. Businesses who match or try to amplify the values of their customers have an easier time setting long-term streams for revenue and profit.

What other traits contribute to brand chemistry? Tweet me @redheadlefthand.