We are constantly challenged as kids in school, and expected to provide answers to the questions we are asked. It seems like the whole point of the public schooling scheme is for us to build the capacity to answer questions. Currently, many children are taught that you’ll never get very far in life if you can’t provide the right answer.
Our knowledge is demonstrated by the assumption that it is the answers we have not the questions we pose. That could not be further from the facts, however! Here’s the reason.
- It’s not a sign of weakness, quite the opposite actually.
All of us grow up afraid of asking questions. Actually, out of fear that they will appear dumb to their peers and classmates, many children will avoid asking questions. The belief that asking questions indicates weakness stems from this mentality.
The bad news is that this mentality still flows into our adult lives. The good news is that the premise here is a lie! It does not make you dumb to ask questions. It might also be that their feelings were not really conveyed well by the other person. They will know that you are using questions to help you improve your learning if you are among smart people. This takes me to the stage that follows.
2. It helps you to learn.
We open up an opportunity to learn something new when we ask questions. We get to see a different viewpoint, and maybe we haven’t come up with a new idea for ourselves. With all the replies, we’re not born. We need to ask questions about stuff we don’t know, so we can learn and improve..
3. Questions help us to see it from their point of view.
One of the great aspects that comes from asking questions is that it allows us to see the point of view of other people. We are all special and the interactions we have had provide us with a new way of looking at situations. We get to see the point of view of others in their responses as we ask questions.
This helps us to see the issue and answer it several times, in a way that we may never have seen before. We have the chance to learn about them and their views by opening ourselves up and learn about others’ points of view. If it is from their victories, or many times from their struggles and defeats, without having to experience such situations for ourselves, we will learn a lesson.
The key is to ask the right questions and to do it properly to get better answers. Here’s a couple of tips.
- Stop asking leading questions.
It’s easy to ask a question that implies a definite answer when you already think you’re right and only want people to say that you’re right. These include:
“Don’t you think we should go ahead and release that order?”
“Do you think it’s time we turned that project over to someone else?”
The response to each question is: you obviously believe that you should stop waiting for input, issue the order, and replace a project leader. Although a few individuals will disagree, most may not because the response you want to hear is obvious.
Here are easier ways to ask the following questions:
“What do you think we should do about that order?”
“What do you think is the best way to handle that struggling project team?”
A particular response does not mean any of those questions. And each leaves space for a variety of choices as well.
2. Start talking as little as possible.
Keep yourself calm and listen. What you know, you do know. In order to find out what the other person knows, great questions are planned. You never know what you might be discovering. And if you don’t remain silent and listen, you’re never going to know what you should have heard.
3. Start asking one sentence questions.
Feel free to state in depth the problem or problem, but limit your question to one sentence. “How can we increase productivity?” “How can we improve quality?” “What would you do if you were me?” Sticking to one sentence helps ensure that the questions are open-ended.
4. Stop asking either/or questions.
Say you have a performance issue and have come up with two potential solutions. Each one has both positive and negative ones. So you seek an employee’s input. You ask, “Should we just scrap everything and rework the whole job,” or should we ship everything and hope the client doesn’t notice?”or should we ship everything and hope the customer doesn’t notice?”
But what if there’s a better way you didn’t think about? Either/or questions presume a response and therefore restrict the possibility of various ideas. Only state the problem, instead of sharing options. Then ask, “What do you think?” or What would you do?” or How should we handle this?”
Then be silent. Please let people think. They will reply much more thoughtfully and will sometimes come up with thoughts that you have never considered.
5. Start asking humble questions for clarity.
You’re supposed to have all the answers as a leader, which means that asking those questions might make you feel insecure. But it oughtn’t. You show respect when you ask questions. You demonstrate faith. You demonstrate that you are able to listen and learn. Plus, it’s easy to ask for clarity. Just say:
“I’m impressed. Now pretend I don’t know anything about how that works. How would you explain it to me?”
“That sounds really good. Let me make sure I didn’t miss anything though. Can you walk me through it one more time?”
Or, best of all, “I have to be honest: I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying, but I really want to.”
Don’t pretend, above all that you understand when you don’t. If only because that’s a trait you never want your workers to model for.
Check out my related post: How to use the STAR Method Technique in interviews?