If you have had experience as a facilitator, you know that a key part of delivering an interactive workshop has to do with asking the right questions. However, the right questions alone do not create engagement in the learning. Instead, if you pair a powerful question with authentic curiosity you can take your training to the next level.
During a recent session facilitating an ATD certificate program, a participant shared a story about a dealing with difficult participant. He felt he hadn’t handled the situation correctly. I asked, “What did you do, specifically?” He described actions that I felt were well thought out and respectful, but they still didn’t seem to work. This made me curious. So, rather than telling him that I thought he did a good job, I asked, “What about your actions concerns you?” After some reflection he realized he was OK with how he handled the situation. Having him come to his own conclusion was significantly more powerful than me telling him his actions were probably the best course.
You can help your learners in the same way by asking the right questions and engaging their curiosity. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Open QuestionsIf I ask a question with the intention of only looking for a specific answer, I may potentially disregard or fail to be open to a new viewpoint. I also am less likely to listen to what is being said and shift the answer to my own agenda or expected response.
Instead, use phrases like “Tell me more about that…” Start your questions with “what” and “how” to get the participant to open up and elaborate on a particular point. Avoid “why” questions as this tends to put people on the defense as it can come across as accusatory.
Body LanguageIf you are genuinely curious, you will be interested in what the learner is sharing. You will lean into the conversation and maintain eye contact. Your energy will be open and positive, and you will create connections with your learners. Trust me on this; everyone in the room will notice. People will be more comfortable being honest and at times vulnerable in sharing their thoughts questions and experiences.
Bottom LineBy being curious, you give your learners the permission to openly share stories and what they are thinking. This is the key to effective adult learning. Be sure to create a space between the question and what you are hoping to pull from your learners. Also, give room for participants to share experiences and opinions, which will engage them more deeply in the learning.
Fostering curiosity and openness is a win-win for everyone. What’s more, you never know when you may just learn something new about a subject that you think already have expertise.