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Ask vs. Tell

Communication is at the heart of everything we do. In recent years it seems that more clients are focused on improving their skills in how to understand and be understood.

One of the principle ways I approach this is by using a piece of the Social Style model of looking at the dimension of behavior known as assertiveness. In simple terms, do you percieve yourself as a telling person or asking person. This is a measure of how we influence others either by asking questions or giving directions. Neither tendency is right or wrong, good or bad. The exploration is to discover how to become adept and flexible in both skills and when and how to use them.

The tendency to tell gives the impression of self assurance and confidence stating strong opinions and positive declarations. A mark of a good leader is the ability to step to the front and forcefully deliver directions, however (there is always a but) leaning too much on telling can leave tire marks on your audience and gaps in understanding.

Inquiry is a powerful tool. As someone inclined to ask the perception may be of caution, reservation, or a low key approach. I think Jim Collins in Good to Great said, and I’ll paraphrase: “Leaders don’t have the answers, they have great questions.” Choosing powerful questions sets the tone for thinking and playing big and invites brainstorming, problem solving, and collective action.

Walk the assertive dimension from ask to tell and see how it feels to practice the side that’s not your predisposition.

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