Some folks are scared to ask the next question. The one that drills down just that bit further. I’m passing on the essence of an article I had considerable empathy with, by Belgian management consultant John Niland.

“It takes both courage and energy to have real conversations: to ask questions, to state what we are OK with… or not OK with. Dialogue can be a thrilling adventure or a tedious necessity. Whether the conversation is with a client, a partner, a friend or a colleague, our conversation can be a window or a wall.

Such conversations win credibility when conducted with calm respect. All too often, alas, they land as whining complaint, neediness or anxious self-preoccupation. A lot depends on how the conversation begins, as well as the language and tone used. Even more depends on the mindset of the initiator: are you seeking an ideal outcome for your client/team or simply pursuing your own convenience? Are you being heard? As we arrive at the mid-point of the decade, are you having the conversations with clients, colleagues and friends that you want to be having?

Courageous conversations win respect. When conducted with an attitude of value, initiated at an appropriate time and followed-up reliably, conversations distinguish a professional. January has started with a week of great conversations, resulting in a strong sense of purpose for the year ahead. How is 2015 opening for you?

A new year is an opportunity for new dialogue. It’s an opportunity to assert where we stand, what we are willing to do and also what we are not willing to do. Here are some of the sentences that I found myself using over the last week:

Before we spend time on this, can I ask a couple of questions first?

Of all of these objectives, which are most important to you?

I’m feeling somewhat frustrated that…

No, I wouldn’t be happy with that.

Who defined these priorities?”

Let me know how it goes for you in 2015 when you find the courage to ask the next question.