When interacting with others we’ve always been told to mind our p’s and q’s. Well. maybe not always. But, when you were going to grandma’s house your mom probably told you to mind your p’s and q’s and expected a certain modicum of behavior from you.

Minding your p’s and q’s is still true … Except the p’s and q’s have changed. The new p’s and q’s are Pauses and Questions.

This post is going to attempt to help you understand the New P’s and Q’s. Using them wisely will help you with finding your next job, interacting with your colleagues, communicating with your spouse and working more effectively with your customers and partners.

Blah, Blah, Blah

No one likes a monologue. People want to be involved. They want to be a part of the conversation. Let them. Involve them. Use your P’s and Q’s to create a dialogue. When you do … everyone wins.

Ask Questions & Create Pauses

For some, Asking Questions is easy. However, there should be a mental clicker in your head. This should not turn into a session of Twenty Questions. Ask the questions that will help you understand more about the other person or the situation at hand.

For those that have a harder time coming up with questions I suggest taking some time to think about the conversation you are likely to have. Generate a few questions that you think will help you understand more or otherwise determine where to go next in the conversation. I recommend writing these down. That way when the conversation is in full swing you can refer to your notes. Of course, you cannot always plan these out. This is where practice comes in.

Practice can be in the form of a post-mortem … take the time after a conversation to write down the questions you wished you would have asked. After a few of these post-mortem practice sessions your ability to Ask Questions will improve.

Strategic use of P’s and Q’s

Asking Questions and Actively Pausing will allow you to get more out of every interaction you have. Think about the dozens of interactions you have every day. With your spouse, your co-workers, your customers, your partners, and even the person at check out counter.

Questions Open the Door to the Conversation … and a Dialogue

Start off your conversation with a question. If you don’t know what people are thinking or what they might be expecting … Ask ’em!

What if you are a speaker and you are on stage and considered to be the “expert” on this topic?

Experts are allowed to ask questions too.

How do you think they became experts?

Start of with a question and ask question throughout. Remember … it should be a dialogue (no blah, blah, blah)

Ask … Listen, Listen

There is an old saying:

You have two ears and one mouth … use them in proportion

Wait for it

Some people are exceedingly good and waiting for what seem to be interminably long periods of time. Meaning they are very good in creating that uncomfortable silence that no one likes. I’m not suggesting that this is something people should aspire towards. However, I am suggesting that Creating Pauses is a good thing. It’s a skill and it’s a gift that for some comes quite naturally. This is a skill you can develop too.

While it may be hard to Create Pauses initially you can use a little trick like counting (in your head, of course) to five in order to give the other person time to respond.

They may want to jump in with a point or a question of their own, but they might still be processing whatever you had just said before. Give them time. Wait for it.

Once you have taken the time to learn and implement the New P’s and Q’s then you can go to the next step. Where you will distill, analyze, and act.


Jeff  is a veteran in the Enterprise Content Management industry. Over the past 20 years he has worked with customers and partners to design, develop and deploy solutions around the world. Jeff is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances at Winshuttle. He has worked for Microsoft, FileNet (IBM), K2, Captaris, Open Text, Kofax and Kodak. He speaks and blogs about ECM and the Intersection between Social, Mobile and Cloud Computing.