“. . . the wise listen and add to their learning.” Proverbs 1:5
There is a seldom spoken yet commonly practiced proverb in my profession of executive coaching that goes something like this: “Questions attract. Statements repel.” Wharton Business School professor Adam Grant offers a thoughtful explanation to this proverb in his recent book Think Again, by warning that as we get too wrapped up in what we have to say, “we often slip into the mindsets of three different professions. . . We go into preacher mode when our sacred beliefs are in jeopardy . . . We enter prosecutor mode when we recognize flaws in other people’s reasoning . . . [and] We shift into politician mode when we’re seeking to win over an audience.” The risk is in talking too much, so that even if the message is a valid one, it may fall on deaf ears for failure to learn about those to whom we are presenting. The way to avoid that is to ask questions and engage in conversation; for questions attract, statements repel.
When we were considering selling our home several years ago, we invited four highly reputable real estate agents to be interviewed as candidates for the listing of our house. One at a time, the first three took his or her place at our dining room table armed with an impressive résumé, well-researched pricing information, and a creative marketing plan. Each made his or her presentation, asked if we had questions, then made a final pitch for why we should choose him or her over the others (preacher, prosecutor, politician).
Then Susan showed up, the fourth candidate. She too came armed with an impressive résumé, pricing information, and marketing plan, but more importantly she came armed with warmth and curiosity. She refrained from talking except to ask questions, wanted to get to know us, why we were considering selling the home we had lived in for twenty-five years, where did we plan to move? We discussed mutual friends, common interests, even our dog who she fell in love with – seriously! And her questions did not come across as routine fact-finding, but genuinely curious as from the heart, much like a close friend. Eventually, she did present her professional information, but only after we asked. By listening, Susan not only won the listing on our home, but was also chosen to represent us in the purchase for our new home, earning not one commission but two.
Questions attract, statements repel, as “. . . the wise listen and add to their learning.”