Discussions often consist of questions and answers. Some require excessive questions in their effort to understand situations. It is critical that leaders understand the circumstances, issues and activities leading toward potential business relationships or project developments. Teams or potential business partners may be on the receiving end of the questions. Sometimes the questions are more probing and aggressive while at other times they are simple and seeking information only.
Take for example the recent barrage of questions in Poland asked of Mitt Romney on July 31, 2012. The questions got rather aggressive and sounded more like probing gaffes rather than collecting information. Reporters are always trying their hardest to get a news story even if it means creating the news. Interestingly the location of the questioning was on a site that was sacred to the country. Whether this was the issue or one of Romney’s advisors got upset, the responses started to become aggressive. The result of verbal exchanges later triggered apologies from the advisor to the reporters later.
Questioning always has the potential to sound aggressive and probing. People will interpret the questions as attacking or probing based on personalities and current situations. It is not possible to be politically correct every time and it is difficult to control emotions when feeling attacked. The person asking the questions may be attacking but they may also be probing to gain a better understanding. It is in this middle ground that confusion and possible incorrect responses may arise.
Responses may equally seem aggressive or inappropriate. The person asking questions may feel clear and precise answers to questions are possible. The interpretation of the questions by the listener may be far different from the actual intent of the question. Many times when answering, the response contains information for what the listener thought was being asked. Interpretation of questions is rather common and result in answers different from what the questioner was expecting.
The ability to communicate in this difficult situation takes a greater effort because no one wants to be communicative when feeling attached. The protection mechanisms rev up and tensions become excessive. This occurs between family members, team members at work, prospective partners, and most anyone. Making an effort to understand the goals of the questions and respond to provide information that is useful and direct is very important. Listener may not accurately interpret a question and the questioner may become frustrated and start sounding more aggressive.
A good leader learns to be a good listener and to monitor the emotion of the other parties. Engaging in an exchange requires attention to detail and prevention of miscommunication or at least the correction of problems early. It is easy to look like the bad person and have those you are talking to shut down. Make every effort to listen with care and understand questions. Try to interpret when the intent is being aggressive and mean spirited and when the questions are just seeking information. Sometimes the difference is hard to detect. The overall objective is communication and understanding, not fighting.