Uhh… could you repeat the question, please? Behind each question is really only one question: Are you listening to me?
There is a big difference between hearing and listening. There is an even a bigger difference between answering and understanding. Answering questions effectively requires you to listen for emotional tone, to understand the context of the question, and to acknowledge the question and the questioner.
What’s the real question? Explosions and special effects aside, most movie drama comes from the subtext. Subtexts are the unspoken reasons why we pose certain questions. Most happily married men know that more often than not their wife’s questions are more than suggestions, boarding on commands. The frustrated men just hear the question and answer honestly that, “No, I don‟t think that the trash needs to be taken out now.” Had they been listening they would comprehend the tone and realized the question will remain unanswered until the trash is taken out.
Consider how many different reasons you may have for asking a question: curiosity, concern, confirmation to name a few. Answering effectively means listening to the unspoken “why” of the question.
The next time you are asked a question, listen beyond the words. Listen to the tone of voice. Answering correctly should always be your goal but the style of your response either dismisses the question or lets everyone know you are really listening.
The greatest craving of the human heart is to be heard, and before every question each of us is asking “Will you listen?”
Let your answers honor the “why” beyond the words and bestow the gift of listening.