I twisted my knee and needed help adding air to my tires. I called the dealer and asked if they could do it for me. The woman told me it would take at least an hour take all the tires off and check them.
Someone asked an event speaker what caused the negative perceptions she mentioned in her presentation. She proceeded to talk about how she found mentors.
This happens – a lot. Someone asks a question and the response addresses a different issue. It is frustrating and (often) a waste of time. It also shows a lack of respect for the questioner. Often, the questioner and audience disengage from the conversation.
Dialogue is a give and take. This means listening to what others say. People disengage when they feel they are not heard or the speaker doesn’t appear to be connecting with them. In the absence of listening, there is only monologue. Communication, the exchange of thoughts and ideas, requires dialogue; it requires keeping listeners engaged.
If someone asks a question, it is important to listen and make sure you understand the question and the concern behind it. If you don’t understand the question, ask for clarification. Respond when you think you understand, and check that your answer satisfied the asker.
I shouldn’t have to repeat my question three times to get a straight answer. The car dealer is in business to make money and could have said no, or that there would be a charge. The fact they ignored my question and tried to up-sell me instead was frustrating. (They did take care of it for me; it took almost fifteen minutes and there was no charge.)
Sometimes an answer has to go in a different direction. When this happens, let the questioner know they were heard and make clear the reason for going on the apparent tangent. For example, the dealer could have told me they didn’t add air without checking all the tires first to prevent a recurrence of the problem.
The event speaker had a compelling story to tell but lost her audience when she ignored the question, responding with comments that had nothing to do with the question. That audience knew she was inexperienced and was forgiving; other audiences might not be as forgiving. Regardless, her error ended her presentation. Several audience members left still wondering what caused the negative perceptions – it could have been a powerful teaching moment.
Failing to answer someone’s question is indicative of a lack of attention and connection. It is disrespectful. Let people know you hear them and address their concerns.