Responding to YES or NO Questions

Link to Podcast: HERE

Transcript found below:

Bill : Hi and welcome to the next episode of belly to belly. And we’re here today with Lanie Denslow from Worldwise Inter Cultural Training and Communication and it’s just great to have you here Lanie and welcome today.

Lanie : Thank you. Thanks, Bill. It’s always fun to be with you and have a conversation.

Bill : Thank you. Well, today we’ve got I think a really interesting topic and it’s something I think we both see happening. And it’s I think it’s an American problem that happens as we communicate with each other. But as you know, when people come into the country it’s also a challenge for them. And this is about yes or no questions and these are questions where whoever we’re speaking with access, you know, a simple yes or no question something like, you know, is it does this have color options as an example or can I get it and my size or are there you know, whether is the, you know, price in a certain range or anything and and quite often we hear people respond to these yes or no questions with an explanation as opposed to yes or no. And so, Lainey and we’re going to probably peel this back just a little bit, but you know, how, as you think of yes or no questions, and particularly thinking of people coming into the country and maybe not knowing sort of our level of patience or impatience as Americans, how do you how would you coach somebody coming in? And let’s maybe just so there’s context, let’s just say we’re in a sales context or a sales meeting, and, you know, maybe you’ve given a somewhat of a presentation, and potential customer asked you a yes or no question. Yeah, maybe let’s start with that scenario and talk through. Yeah, how somebody would appropriately respond to it. What are the things that they should consider?

Lanie : I’m starting to laugh because I realized that I want to back it up. Because what you’ve asked me is sort of get to the bottom line. Do what I need to do, tell me now and I’ll do it right. That’s why you asked me and that’s our American approach, because we’re very time focused for us. It all goes back to this concept that time is scarce. It’s a resource, there’s not much of it, and we’re in a hurry. We want to make a deal and move on. Right? But if, if you were my client coming from someplace else, in a perfect world, we would have done some coaching and talking before you ever walked into this meeting. So that first of all, you had some understanding of this American beyond time we’re in a hurry, let’s just do it. And there are several things that play into that conversation. First is understanding that because we’re in a hurry, we would rather hear yes, I can do it clearly. Or no, I can’t do it clearly. We listen for data and facts, tell me what I need to know so I can make a decision. And I had another thought that just flew off which we’ll come back in a minute. So and that is quite different than many parts of the world, let’s say the Middle East, China, where there’s a different sense of time and the importance of the relationship between the parties. So communication is as much about nurturing and not disturbing the relationship, as it is about communicating data and facts. Everybody wants to make the deal. It’s how you approach it. So it’s hard for somebody, especially if there’s a no or a maybe it’s hard for somebody to understand that they can tell you say to you know, we can’t give it to you in 10 sizes. We can only give it to you in this range, because they don’t want to lose the deal. Lose the relationship and so you and they don’t have an idea that of saying well right now we only do it in these four sizes. But if you can give us an extra two months we can get the sizing adjusted, you know, we’re kind of accustomed to, well, we can’t quite get there. But this is what we could do. Which is a long way from still more clear than a long explanation that you stopped listening to. Because you hear it as no, you don’t hear them. Maybe we could get there. You have to ask us some more questions. Hmm.

Bill : So I’ll throw out another scenario and I my guess is we can probably get to set you up after a little dialogue here. We can get to some maybe some, some suggestions, but the next thing I’d like to throw out is so let’s just imagine now I’m pitching to an investor and an investor asks me a yes or no question about my you know about the business opportunity and whatnot. And I guess my observation of investors and also potential customers, and particularly investors is quite often investors are asking you questions somewhat because they want the answer, but also because they have a point to make. And, and what I’ve seen people do is again, respond to that yes or no question. And quite often, there’s very limited time to respond to investors you’ve made have, you only have five or 10 minutes to pitch and they maybe have five or 10 minutes to ask questions. I mean, it can be very curt, and you know, so the longer you respond, the less questions you get, and the less interaction you get. But the I quite often look at questions from investors almost like it’s that tip of the iceberg of what they’re really what they really want to know about. And I’m wondering, you know, that, that in that scenario, to me, yes, that’s the probably, of all the sort of scenarios you can lay out in the US that’s probably the most time critical simply because of other parameters. Where you need to be as concise as possible. But in that scenario, particularly where you know, somebody probably has a ultimately a reason they ask the question. If you go on a long time, it seems like you really put the relationship in jeopardy.

Lanie : No, soccer that went through my head as you were talking, is that’s why people practice pitches. And I think somebody coming from another place in the world, even if it was as close as Canada or Mexico is going to need some coaching about how do you hear the question behind the question, because that’s one of the differences in communication as we listen for different things we think to the same question, but we’re really hearing it differently, or the answer and so my recommendation is always that you need a coach who’s experienced in working with people on both sides of the pitch, who can do a practice with you who can look at your deck who can do some questions and help you understand what’s likely the question behind the question. I don’t think there’s one simple answer to that. It’s such a specific thing that you know, everybody here, even Americans in Silicon Valley, if they’re pitching, they have a coach or a friend or somebody they know who will listen to them and give them feedback. So I think if I’m working with a client, I would find somebody that I trusted who had that experience and connect them so that they could get not just the general cultural look, but the real serious this is what goes on inside a pitch.

Bill : Right? Right. Are there techniques that you found work well, in terms of responding to those yes or no questions interviewing or their, you know, sort of rules of thumb that you might suggest?

Lanie : I think the hardest thing is two pronged it’s getting your head around the idea so it takes some practice to get around the idea that it’s okay to answer. Even a no that I know sometimes is seen as the beginning of a discussion rather than the end of the conversation. And I don’t think there is a one size fits all answer because it’s so much about also, for any of us, Americans to is not wanting to disappoint a customer or disappoint a potential investor. It’s we want to make the deal but woven into that is we want the customer to be pleased and happy.

Bill : So I’m sorry, go ahead.

Lanie : No, no, your turn. 

Bill : Well, I was just gonna ask, you know, so is there a way do you think to answer it? And then ask a question or in other words, you could say yes or no. But my guess is there a reason there’s a reason you’re asking that question? Is there, you know, is there something you’re hoping to achieve? Yeah. Yeah, that maybe I can address you know, more directly. That situation?

Lanie : Yeah, it’s, it’s okay to ask a question as well as an answer. It’s getting the idea that it’s a conversation isn’t that what we’re always trying to achieve with a potential customer investor is to get to what, what’s their need? What’s the pain point that they have that you’re trying to solve? Because they’re not looking to buy your shirt? Just because they need a shirt. There’s some reason they’re talking to you. Right That and that sometimes comes from having done some previous research, never walk into a meeting without having done serious research so that you know what might be going on behind the question. Right. And also, Americans are known for being very direct, we will tell you yes or no. But also we are can be very indirect too. We might not really give you a clue as to why we’re asking the question. So it’s okay to probe a little bit. 

Bill : So you might say something like, you know, that options not currently available, is that important to you? Right, right. Then they may say, No, not really. I just want to know, right? Or they may say, yes, it’s actually critical to the deal. I mean, right.

Lanie : I mean, or you know, it’s not available right now. It’s something we’re looking at how urgent is it for you? Critical always to be interested in what’s going on behind the scenes, but for the American in that conversation? To recognize that that long answer that is yes or no may really give you the answer. If you’re listening, careful, carefully, then watch the length. And so it’s incumbent to a wit for us. Let’s say as native English speakers to recognize there also be a language issue, that there’s a vocabulary issue. For if somebody’s slow to answer to recognize maybe they’re translating something in their head, and they’re slow to answer because they have it into their mother tongue and then translate it back into English. There are so many elements that go on. It’s, it’s challenging.

Bill : Right now, there’s no simple answers. So this has been really good. This has been I think, very helpful. And I think you know, the yes or no topic is something that can complicate communication and I’ll just share a quick story that just happened with me a couple hours ago I was on I was a customer or a prospect for a call. that I had and the person who is giving me a product demo and so on, and I asked him I what I thought was a kind of a simple yes or no question. And five minutes later, I had no idea if the response was yes or no, because they just they just, instead of answering my question they just gave me you know, just a long product explanation, but didn’t answer the question. And I actually got bored and went to email. Because I hadn’t, I hadn’t heard my and I don’t think that was their goal. I don’t think they wanted me to go to email. But I felt like I had no other choice. I I was, you know, sort of I have listened to the extent I want to listen. So yeah, I guess do you have thoughts about that? How do we keep people from for how do we avoid that?

Lanie : Well, in one answer would be, you’re not going to avoid that because that’s the only way they know how to answer. And maybe nobody talked to them about American short attention span. Which is something we are guilty of, because maybe there was some clue in what he was saying. I’m assuming it was a guy. That would answer your question, but you weren’t listening for the clues in the in the message that’s one of the things that challenge, and I can tell you a story of having worked with a French woman and if I sent her a schedule, I learned that when she said are you sure what she was? Are we sure we should do that on Tuesday really meant that’s a lousy idea. We absolutely should not do that. On Tuesday, but it took a while. So sometimes it’s that sometimes I think you can say thank you. I appreciate what you’re telling me. But could you be a little more specific, it’s, you know, it’s still in your control to be able to say help me understand I’m not sure I’m getting your message. I need to understand more clearly. So that they also need to know that you don’t understand

Bill : Yeah but I guess my view would be as a customer I don’t feel like I have to train people selling to me. Right? I mean, I get what you’re going but it’s like I get some right. I mean, I I feel they should come prepared.

Lanie : Yes. Okay, I get that. That is one of the reasons that I exist. Right, right, totally. Realize that that person is not trying to make you crazy or not trying to really not answer your question. They don’t maybe understand enough or that’s what they do at home and it works for them. Which is why I people need some coaching before they start working across borders to understand where they might run into those walls that are going to limit their success. Yeah, I can appreciate exactly what you’re saying. And it doesn’t make you wrong. Just makes you frustrated. And the workers you’re talking to has no idea that you weren’t unhappy with his product. You just were impatient and done and lost interest,

Bill : Right? Yeah, completely. Well, I’m a married man. I learned a long time ago. I can’t read minds so well, this is this is great lady. Do you want to take a moment just describe your service? Our audience knows a little bit about what you do and, and also maybe share a little bit about your book.

Lanie : Well, thank you, Bill. You can tell that what I really care about is making sure people understand each other enough to continue the conversations and maybe find out if they want to be a customer. So I do cultural awareness training. Help making sure that my clients understand exactly what we’re talking about today. How people communicate differently things so that they don’t insult people. I always say without when they don’t intend to or worse yet, think they’ve been insulted by this habit. And workshops. I do individual coaching all around the idea of cultural awareness, cultural competence, whether it’s for attorneys or accountants or any professionals and do lots of workshops with organizations. And yes, thanks for mentioning the book. I have a book that I coauthored called working with Americans, our attempt to bring a little bit more peace to the relationships between Americans and people from other parts of the world. So that not only they understand that we want Yes, now and tell me now but one of the most frustrating things for people coming from outside the US is when an American says to them, Hi, how are you? And then doesn’t listen for an answers. They’re starting to answer because for us, Hi, how are you? It’s like one word. It’s a greeting. It’s not really a question. So I want to take the friction out of those small things that can really interfere with their big business done. And I have to say that I love being part of soft land partners, because I’ve met such interesting people and learned a lot. So that’s been a great experience for me. So thank you for that.

Bill : Oh, thank you. That’s very kind and, and congratulations on all the great work you’re doing and I think you gave some really good insights today. So I really, really appreciate that. But any anything else that you want to share in closing on this topic?

Lanie : And recognizing not only the different cultural patterns in how we communicate, but also to remember that there often is simply a language a spoken and written language gap, and to be patient with each other trying to understand across back. 

Bill : Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for taking your time and thank you to our audience for listening and being a part of this today. Make sure to like and subscribe and be nice to each other right?

Lanie : Absolutely.

Bill : Thanks. Let me know All right, bye Now. 


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