Business would function better if participants would answer the question they were asked. An unanswered question can set a discussion or meeting down a negative path.

A representative of my publisher called me last week and asked if I wanted to participate in a group ad in the Reader’s Digest to promote my book “Theory You”. I was surprised by the call and asked for 24 hours to think about it. When we talked the next day I had just a few questions. My first question was “Have you advertised in the Reader’s Digest before or is this a new advertising medium?” The representative told me they used the Reader’s Digest on a frequent basis. I was surprised I had never been informed about this ad opportunity and had never been asked to participate.

My second question was “What kind of success rate have you experienced with the Reader’s Digest?” The representative then went into sell mode and informed me the Reader’s Digest was a powerful magazine with global reach with millions of readers. It was the number one magazine in the world. She told me I would get to see the ad before it ran, and that I would share the page with 5 other authors. However, she did not give me any indication she was about to answer my question.

When I informed her my career prior to becoming an author was advertising and that I was very familiar with the Reader’s Digest she still tried to convince me the Reader’s Digest was a great opportunity for me. And she still avoided answering my question. It was at that point the discussion broke down. I was not ready to proceed without an answer to my question, and she was not about to respond to my question. She did inform me that another representative from the publishing company would have the answer to my question but there was no offer to get me the information prior to my making a decision. Thus, I declined the offer.

In my mind I knew exactly why I declined the offer from my publisher. Either they had no idea if previous ads in the Reader’s Digest were successful, or the results were not a positive talking point. I felt the offer to participate was a big risk and a step into the unknown. However, I’m not sure the representative knew why the offer was declined. She had a script and she was determined to follow that script. My input and my concern did not seem to matter.

I witnessed the behavior often when I was in business and also witnessed it when I was teaching. It starts with not listening. It includes becoming so fixated on your portion of the dialogue that the other participant’s input does not register. If you want to make your input count keep your input under control. If you can use your input to answer a question it becomes much more powerful. If my publisher’s representative told me in her presentation that the Reader’s Digest produced solid results I would have been interested. However, if she answered my question and informed me prior ads had been successful I would have been more interested. I would have some ownership in the information and been more inclined to appreciate the information.

In business discipline yourself to answer the question you were asked. That discipline will provide ample rewards.