One of the most difficult tasks a leader needs to practice is to talk and ask smart questions to his colleagues and employees. And when I say smart, I mean that those questions have to be designed for a purpose, that of adding value to the team, and if possible, helping them grow either professionally or personally.
It is an art that requires patience, dedication, discipline and training, and a lot of training.
Hum! And how should we talk and ask questions when we are with our children with ADHD? Ah! We don’t? Still using coercive and/or overly sympathetic styles with them? I am convinced that the future of leadership should not focus on these two models. My personal opinion is that in a conversation, there should be an average of about 10% of each of these two styles and 80% of questions. At least this has to be the trend in order to make our children grow and mature.
I think it is very positive to be able to have a fluid communication making us feeling that we are on the same wavelength as our children (such as similar vocabulary, tone of voice… (difficult to maintain with adolescents)) and with patience, empathy, and a sense of humor we can see whether or not the conversation progresses … and their development too!
The risk of not doing it is to assume answers that exist only in our heads. ADHD’s do not usually listen, and if they consequently do not speak, we will interpret any of their actions as an answer. We should have already learned from past experience that they could have probably forgotten what the question was in the first place… So we have all the necessary ingredients to get angry and to get even more nervous!
We have to think about creating a context for enjoying a productive conversation: take time to be relaxed, no noise, no interruptions, and with a pre-determined duration (it’s a thousand times better to have three 5 minute talks instead of a one hour talk trying to capture their attention). I know, I know. Our crazy lives do not give us time for happy spaces, but please, make an effort to create them at least once a day …
Some ideas to consider before taking action:
– Before asking our children a question, imagine we ask that same question to ourselves. How does it sound? Is it clear enough? What kind of response would we like to hear?
– Do I include a commitment on their behalf in my series of questions? (Be careful, anything that has indications of a long term commitment will encourage the risk of failure. This increases their anxiety). Or on the contrary, do we help them find easy answers, feasible ones with a sense of ‘I can do this’?
– Do I look for their opinion? (Even if it is a question which answer has been already decide upon by us). Do not waste any chance to make them verbalize what they have on their minds. This can greatly smooth out the resentment that sometimes surfaces on both sides.
– Do you get the chance to discuss any past experiences, check facts, or make comparisons? Let’s practice with them some data retention (remember, only work at a time without stress, and not when the voices begin to get raised).
Albert Einstein said there are questions that are so good that they do not deserve a quick response. Do not think we need an answer in two microseconds. Let’s inquire whether all is well understood and that trust exists. Remember that it is better to maintain a relaxed air and then go back after a while rather than insisting on it over and over. Don’t obsess with obtaining immediate results.
GOLDEN RULE: the quality of their responses is directly related to the quality of our questions. All children need to be encouraged to communicate their preferences, their views and needs. First we must show interest, build trust and then lead the conversation.
To show interest is inherent, as we are their parents, but what about trust? How do we build trust? The simplest (and most complicated, especially for mothers, I know from my own experience …) is to listen. That is, be silent. It is not at all productive to skip stages and impose our own conclusions because we are in a hurry, because it seems obvious, or because we are not feeling well at that moment…..
Let’s formulate a quality question and wait. Listening provides a lot of data (I think I’m a bit insisting, I know, but it is essential to provide space in order for them to express themselves. In addition, we are role models for them: We have one mouth and two ears, that is, we should speak half of what we listen to…shoudn’t we?).
Do not forget that we must keep our vision. We have to remember what our focus is in each conversation. And do not get off that track!. Our ADHD’s are expert explorers too. Explorers of our limits, and they find them quickly and very easily, sometimes even unconsciously. So even if it seems very hard, wait in silence and look for creating a style of communication that will generate real confidence. It will allow us to reap our teachings on what really matters to us.
Finally, let me suggest one question that can work very well, and is applicable not only for our children but for ourselves and with all of whom we love.
There are questions that I qualify as “nutrients” because they feed us on many levels. And there is one that delivers amazing results.
What have you learned today?
This is a question that turns out to be a positive habit. The answer may be related to something insignificant. It does not matter. Is this something new? Take it. But that’s not all! Write it down. Make a record of what you learn every day. And look at it from time to time. Once a week, once a month….. Whenever you want … Write it down and save it as if it were a treasure.
Then tell me what you observe!
Let´s get to work!