When a customer or colleague comes to you with a question, it often makes sense to dive straight into the content and come up with a solution. This can be useful, for example when there is time pressure, but it can also cause you to miss important information.

By asking questions and especially by asking the right questions, you can get a more complete picture of the situation in which the other person finds himself and what is on his mind. It helps you figure out the question behind the question faster, allowing you to provide an even better solution. Moreover, this gives you more guidance and structure to a conversation. A technique that can help with this is chunking.

The term chunking comes from Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and is a way of looking at a situation from different perspectives:

Up chunking: You first zoom out and look closely at the demand and the need behind the question. Questions associated with this level are about the higher purpose and the why. What is the reason that? Why is this important to you? What do you hope to achieve with this?

Side chunking: Then you broaden the conversation and see what else is going on besides this question and what the other person wants even more. It helps you to sketch a clearer and more complete picture. What else is going on? What else do you want to achieve? What else can I do for you?

Down chunking: At the end of the conversation you become more concrete and then come to a solution and agreements. You ask about content and results for clarification. What exactly do you want to see differently? Can you give an example? When should this be realized?

Where it can be disadvantageous to have a conversation too quickly at a concrete (content) level, the other way around, it can be unclear if a conversation remains abstract and is completed without concrete agreements and actions. If you forget the broader level, there is a chance that you will miss opportunities. You therefore have a full conversation on all 3 levels: abstract, broad and concrete.

Consider which of the three levels you prefer and consciously try to ask more questions from the other two levels. In our Persuasive Power you practice the chunking technique so that you become skilled in asking the right questions in conversations.

Good luck!