As a leader, when you give directions or outline a new policy or procedure, you likely want to make sure you’ve been understood. So, you say what you and other leaders have said countless times before…

Does anyone have any questions?

And the response? Crickets. Silence. No one raises their hand or asks a question.  You think all is well. You are confident that you’ve communicated clearly.

Of course, this is often false confidence.

Imagine your shock, confusion, and frustration when the policy or procedure is not implemented correctly.  You are baffled because you followed the example of so many other leaders and asked…

Does anyone have any questions? 

Imagine the difference replacing “Does anyone have any questions?” with “What may I clarify?” could make. Most professionals find that this small change can make a big difference and here is why: 

  • When you ask “Does anyone have any questions?” you put people on the spot and they may not want to admit they don’t understand or are confused.  So, in order to save face, they say nothing and problems inevitably arise.
  • Asking “Does anyone have any questions?” also makes it sound like you, the speaker, are putting all the responsibility on the listener and even blaming the listener if things are unclear. 
  • Changing it up and asking “What may I clarify?” places the responsibility for communicating clearly on your shoulders, freeing people up to ask questions or for more information without feeling shamed or blamed.

Try this yourself.  The next time you want to say “Does anyone have any questions?” – STOP. And instead make a better choice.  Ensure understanding by asking “What may I clarify?” 

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Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.