“Wow… what a great, incisive question.  No one has ever asked me that before.”…. Hundreds, maybe thousands of people, in response to being interviewed by Terry Gross

 

 I LOVE Fresh Air, Terry Gross’s show on WHYY Public Radio.  She has perfected the ability to ask questions that allow her guests to distill to their essence, their juiciest experiences and most profound realizations.

What can you learn from Gross’s approach that will allow you to earn respect and trust from both colleagues and clients?

1.  Do extremely thorough research 

Whatever the topic, Gross has read the book, watched the movie, researched the scientific theory or political situation.  In short, she prepares by finding relevant facts and thinking deeply about her interviewee’s perspective and topic.  

The takeaway:  You can prepare for each business meeting or important professional conversation using the same method.  Read that report your colleague has provided; take some time to think about what your boss may need to make her job easier or create better results for the quarter; Google your potential client and learn all you can about them, their product or company and their business needs 

2.  Ask relevant, meaningful questions and then… be quiet

Gross employs her natural curiosity to understand more about her guests’ research, theories or artistic ventures and uncover their motivations, feelings and experiences.  In short, her pre-work and her ability to hear what is being said in the moment creates fascinating audio portraits of people, their achievements and experiences. 

The takeaway:  Asking the right questions is one very effective method of beginning to develop relationships of trust and collegiality, gaining insights or closing a sale.  You just need to give your colleague, boss or client the opportunity to speak up.  

3.  Create an experience of being heard

Gross has a robust list of questions she wants to ask, but she is able to put aside her agenda and listen well to what her guest is saying in every moment.  This enables her to have an intimate, authentic conversation and probe further with great follow-up questions.  It  creates a great conversation and award-winning radio.

The takeaway:

Forget about yourself.  Put your worries, extraneous thoughts and subjective desires on HOLD for the moment. Place your attention on what the other person is saying.  What do her words convey?  What is her body language and facial expression communicating?  Feeling as though one’s opinions, ideas and concerns have been heard is powerful.  When you combine that experience with your response of intelligence, curiosity and empathy, you will be a much sought-after employee, colleague or vendor.