They say if your child is not proficient in reading by the end of first grade, they’re going to struggle over the long haul.
Perhaps that’s why I was so tuned in to the literacy intervention teacher one morning, as she shared tips with a select group of parents on how to get our kids up to speed with their peers.
“Every problem has a solution,” I tell my kids, and this one is no different.
One of the solutions she suggested intrigued me. I jotted it down in my iPhone Notes: “Ask questions after every page as you read a story together”.
How often have you heard a piece of wonderfully profound guidance like that; a statement that sounds so wise, you feel smarter just having heard it. But really, you have zero idea what it means in practice.
That’s why I typed in a follow-up question – “What are good questions to ask?” – and grabbed a pause in her flow to ask it out loud.
“A great question,” she affirmed. “Ask your child to make predictions about what might happen next in the story. Ask him to make a summary of the story in his own words. Perhaps ask him what the person in the picture might be feeling. Ask him what might be another word we could use for one of the words on the page.”
My follow-up question unlocked the treasure chest of her experience, allowing her to put gold nuggets of true value in my hands, and those of all the parents in the room.
It reminded me that the ability to ask good questions is one of the most powerful interpersonal skills we can learn, as children and adults. And so often it’s the follow-up question that unlocks the most meaningful content and results.
Own the conversation
Think about the last time you were at a networking event. I bet the most enjoyable conversation you had was with a person that asked you follow-up questions and stayed engaged, asking more as you unwrapped your story.
Want more? Try This: Why active listening matters
Mark and I were guest speakers at a Western Sydney University alumni event recently* – and the topic of networking was a hot topic in the Q&A time. How and why do we need to get out and about, and when we’re there, how do we make the most of it?
Did you know people walk away thinking you’re smartest, when they’ve done the most talking? If you hate disingenuous small talk as much as I do, you need to learn how to ask incisive questions that cut to the heart of the issue.
Interrupt without being rude
So, on that morning at my child’s school, there I was, every bit the mature-aged uni student; front and centre, tapping notes, furrowed brow, thrusting my hand in the air to clarify or confirm grand statements.
The other parents were polite, respectful and quiet. Perhaps, like many in our generation, they were taught it’s rude to interrupt.
But we miss so much that way. The next evolution for our generation, and the one we are raising, is learning how to “interrupt” with incisive, respectful questions.
Want to hear more from Heather? Try this interview: 10 things successful people do before 10am
We find it every day in our business – asking the right questions, at the right time, in the right way, is what unlocks the most powerful stories and the most meaningful client relationships.
Try it for yourself next time you’re in an important presentation or even a simple conversation – see what hidden treasures you discover that would have otherwise passed right by if you’d stayed politely mute.
* Mark and I met at Western Sydney University and got married our first year after graduation. Feel free to ask me questions to unwrap that story anytime!