Interaction Skills Needed For Effective Elicitation

Interaction Skills Needed For Effective Elicitation

There are many techniques available for effective elicitation. The core to this is the human interaction skills needed to be successful. There are however five common human interaction pitfalls relating to elicitation and how to avoid them.

Being an active passive listener, a common misconception is that active listening means keeping our mouths shut and nodding our heads. However, that’s really a form of passive listening and it’s a common pitfall. We shouldn’t be afraid to interrupt otherwise we are relying entirely on those non-verbals to communicate.

Active listening, involves making sure we understand what’s being said. Active listening requires asking clarifying questions, paraphrasing what we think we’ve heard, and asking related questions. These techniques help ensure that we understand and that we’re interested. They also provide an opportunity for the stakeholders to expand and change their thoughts and opinions.

The pitfall of asking the right question in the wrong way, in a way that puts the person we’re talking to on the defensive. It’s difficult enough to elicit information when people trust us. If they don’t, it can be a very difficult process indeed. And there are many reasons why they might distrust us. When we sound like prosecuting attorneys, we risk having our stakeholders shut down or give us bad information or none at all.

Elicitation is where we learn, and one of the key ways we learn is by asking for the reasons behind statements. Most of us are taught to ask “why” to get at the true meaning, the cause of a problem, the steps in a process, or the usefulness of current information. However, asking why can be an easy way to bust trust, so we have to be careful how we ask it.

As PMs and BAs, it’s important for us to pick up on both verbal and nonverbal cues. This can be tricky. Sometimes non-verbals can be misleading. And different cultures have different non-verbal cues. So relying entirely on non-verbals is a pitfall we need to avoid.

It’s important not to make assumptions, but rather to ask for clarification. And don’t forget about the “pause/silence” technique. We ask a clarifying question and wait for a response. And wait some more if necessary, if the stakeholder doesn’t respond immediately.

It’s also important to show interest in what others are saying, and one way to do that is to share similar experiences. But when the discussion becomes a monolog instead of a conversation, it can build boredom and mistrust.

Before sharing our own experiences, ask questions about what stakeholders are telling us. Even one or two questions can indicate that we value their thoughts. And again, it allows them to expand their ideas.

It’s not uncommon for stakeholders to come to a meeting with something on their mind that they haven’t previously mentioned. There are many possible motivations, and we should not assume the worst. For example, perhaps an important new issue has just arisen and they haven’t had time to let us know. Perhaps it’s difficult to get stakeholders together and they don’t want to lose the opportunity to discuss a certain topic. Perhaps we’ve discouraged their ideas and they don’t trust us enough to notify us in advance. Perhaps they have gathered support from others prior to the meeting. Regardless, it is easy to feel that we have been blindsided. And let’s not forget that we may be the ones with the hidden agenda—for many of the same reasons. Even if our intentions are the best, our stakeholders might feel blindsided.

One-on-one pre-meetings with an objective but without an agenda seem to help. It is best to discuss issues individually and put people at ease. If needed, modify the agenda to accommodate additional needs.

Elicitation is one of those critical skills that are needed in order to be successful. It involves not only core elicitation techniques, but also human interaction skills, without which all the great interviewing, business modelling, and other important techniques won’t suffice. Let us know your thoughts on elicitation; it would be great to get your comments. All the best on your project management journey, please like share and subscribe to the project management companion channel.

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