The BWE blogs talk a lot about vetting, so we know it means more than working a gig giving pets shots and enemas. But the question is, how do we vet? What questions should you be asking to get to the answers you want, and how do you do it without sounding like a crazy chick?
Andrew Sobel, author (along with coauthor Jerold Panas) of Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others, put together a list of “power questions” you can use to glean the information-gathering you so desperately need in order to prevent unnecessary shriveling of your ovaries and beauty loss from age, stress, and a loser guy.
â€œPower questions are called that because they give power to your conversations and to the other person,â€ says Sobel. â€œThey make you stop talking and start listening. They help you learn things about a loved one thatâ€”I guarantee youâ€”you didnâ€™t know. And best of all they make the other person feel loved, valued, and worthwhile.â€
Without further ado…
1. What are your dreams? Sit down with a cup of coffeeâ€”or a glass of wineâ€”and allow some silence. Smile warmly. Ask this question with no elaborationâ€”donâ€™t mess it up with other words. Then wait.
â€œThis is a deceptively simple questionâ€”deceptive because of its power,â€ notes Sobel. â€œMost of us are afraid to ask it. What if the answer is something we donâ€™t want to hear? And yet, the conversation it sets in motion can transform lives in exciting ways.â€
2. What would you say has been the happiest day of your life? (and Why did you choose that day?) Think of this question as the start of a much longer conversation. Why did the person choose that particular day? What other days have been happy ones? What is happiness, for him or her, anyway? Is it the same thing as joy or contentment? Allow an hour at least!
â€œSometimes we have huge misconceptions about our partnerâ€”even if itâ€™s someone weâ€™ve lived with for 30 years,â€ says Sobel. â€œYou may discover you have been projecting your own feelings and beliefs onto him or her.â€
3. Can you tell me about your plans? We are all so FULL of our own plans, notes Sobel. Our own priorities. Our own goals. Our own stories. When we really, truly focus on our partnerâ€”not just use what he or she says as a springboard to talk about ourselvesâ€”we learn amazing things.
â€œAsk this about anything: the other personâ€™s career, their upcoming vacation, their weekend,â€ Sobel suggests. â€œInstead of talking about your plansâ€”or what you think the other personâ€™s plans should beâ€”ask the questions and just listen.â€
4. What do you think… (about this idea, news event, etc.)? â€œMy coauthor on Power Questions, Jerry Panas, calls these the FOUR WORDS,â€ explains Sobel. â€œThey are very simple: â€˜What do you think?â€™ Youâ€™d be surprised how many people are never or rarely asked these four words. They can unleash a marvelous conversationâ€”and help you make a warm connection.â€
5. What do you wish you could spend more time on each week? Less time? Actually, this is a good one to ask if you got a blank stare or an eye roll when you asked your partner about his or her dreams, says Sobel. In some ways youâ€™re asking the same thingâ€”just in more pragmatic language.
â€œI ask this question a lot in business relationships and I find it gets the other person talking about what they really love and enjoy in their lives,â€ says Sobel. â€œI get to know them so much better. An added benefit, when you ask it of a partner, is that sometimes you can help them figure out a way to change their day-to-day reality.â€
6. Can you tell me something about yourself that I donâ€™t already knowâ€”and that might surprise me? This question can reveal surprising, even astonishing things about someone you thought you knew well. â€œA friend of mine once answered this by telling me â€˜I spent a night in jail in Lubbock, Texas,â€™â€ says Sobel. â€œSomeone else said, â€˜I rode on Air Force One with President Lyndon B. Johnson.â€™ Yet a third revealed they had been jilted the day before their planned wedding!â€
Try it out yourself, he suggests. You may not find out anything that dramaticâ€”but then again, you might!
7. Right now, what are you most passionate or excited about in your life? â€œThis is what I call a â€˜passion question,â€™â€ says Sobel. â€œWhen you tap into peopleâ€™s passions, they come alive and the conversation comes alive. All of a sudden youâ€™re not just chit-chatting about mindless trivia. Youâ€™re talking about the stuff that lights us on fire!â€
8. What would you say gives you the most fulfillment in your life? This comes at passion from a slightly different angle from the previous question. Maybe the answer will be the same. Maybe not. But a conversation about what fulfills us in our lives is always a rich and rewarding one.
9. What are you doing this week that I could help you with or support you on? Even if the answer is nothing, youâ€™ll make the other person feel supported and loved. If there is somethingâ€”well, itâ€™s a good day when you can identify how to help someone else.
â€œRemember, â€˜from everyone to whom much is given, much shall be required,â€™â€ says Sobel. â€œMaybe you can run an errand for your spouse. Or help a friend with an unpleasant task. It could be that simple.â€