valentines image from canva

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day! Do you have a meal for two planned? Or even a small window for one:one time without the kids or others around?

Here are five secrets for a better conversation over dinner, inspired by the ongoing leadership quest to stop telling people what to do, and instead open up a conversational space with a thought-provoking question.

  1. Relax and allow others to step forward: Your ‘date’ will have an answer, even if it’s not the one you might have provided. People are more likely to be committed to and remember something they developed themselves, than something you came up with. (There is no need for you to have a monopoly on the answers.)
  2. Follow the 80:20 guideline. This is the ideal coaching number – and is just as relevant an intention over a meal. They get 80% of the airtime, and your 20% is mostly made up of well-placed questions that lead to insight. (ie If you are doing more of the talking, you are probably telling. Not very sexy!)
  3. Remember other people want to feel good too. Answering a question, figuring out the solution to a challenge, solving a problem with insight… It’s rewarding to the brain and accompanied by a hit of dopamine (a neurochemical related to the brain’s reward response). We feel good when come up with a response – so let your partner have this opportunity by asking more open questions.
  4. Allow the silence. More than allow it… befriend it! If you ask an open question and the other person is silent, take it as a signal that your question has them thinking. Let them think. Your willingness to be together in silence indicates a true desire on your part to listen. (Conversely, when you get uncomfortable and jump in with an answer, their belief that you are not really interested in what they think will be confirmed, making it even less likely you will get a response next time.)
  5. Helping is not always helpful. Moving into helping mode – giving people the answers, taking on the challenge of making things right – can be disempowering at best, and feel undermining at worst. Many years ago, you learned to walk right? Your parent allowed you to tumble, walk into things, build your skills gradually. Stop helping too hard, and allow the people the people you love to grow and develop.

And just in case you aren’t convinced yet, questions make you more likeable! According to an article published in the ‘Harvard Business Review’, people are more willing to go on a second date with partners who asked more questions!

Which secret will be most useful to you on Valentine’s Day? Which secret will be most useful to you as a leader any day of the year?

Go Fearlessly – Corrinne


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