A friend — who happened to be a lawyer — once gave me this advice. “Never ask a question,” he said, “to which you don’t already know the answer.”
Huh? How’s that again?
Already I’m asking questions, and no, I don’t have the answers.
If I already know the answer to a question, there’s no reason to ask…is there? Yes, there’s another question. My mind this morning is filled with questions, questions, questions.
I’m very fortunate that I grew up in an environment where asking questions was encouraged. I can’t recall ever being taught not to question what was going on in the world around me. I was never told that certain people weren’t supposed to be questioned, or that certain beliefs were supposed to be accepted. The philosophy I was raised on was, “If you have questions, ask.”
There’s a lot more to asking questions, though, than simply tagging a question mark on at the end — in writing or by using verbal inflections in our speech. The real trick is learning how to ask the right questions.
Years ago when I studied conversational skills, I was taught not to ask “yes and no” questions. If you want to engage someone in conversation, provide them with an opportunity to share information or exchange ideas. So, instead of “Did you enjoy your vacation?” a better question would be “What did you do on your vacation?”
It’s a good principle. I have found out, however, that sometimes folks just don’t want to be dragged into a conversation. “What did you do on your vacation?” can be answered with “Nothing.” End of converstion. Or worse. The question can be answered with another question. “Why do you want to know?” Well, actually, I don’t, all right? It’s just an example.
Moving right along, asking too many questions can definitely make a person appear nosy or overly inquisitive. Questions can also sound accusatory if not phrased correctly. Instead of asking “How in the blazes did you screw that up so bad?”, it might be better to politely inquire, “What do you think went wrong?”
I’m being a trifle facetious. Would anyone really ask such an outrageous question? Yeah, I know some people who probably would.
Questions are important. We learn by asking questions. The truly surprising thing is that people are often hesitant to raise their hands and say “I’ve got a question.”
Sometimes we feel we’re supposed to grasp everything we’re being told. If we interrupt and ask a question, it might make us appear weak or less intelligent than others.
People also fail to ask questions because they think they already have all the answers. Instead of clarifying plans or information, they assume they know everything, and the results can sometimes be disastrous.
Yet another reason why people fail to ask questions is lack of time. They don’t want to slow down or put plans on hold by dredging up possible problems. Easier to ignore questions, plunge in, and hope for the best. Really? No, of course not. But that’s the approach a lot of people take. Maybe there’s a time and place for the “Shoot first, ask questions later,” approach, but failing to ask important questions at the start of a project can lead to bigger problems later on as well as a lot of wasted time.
While browsing around earlier, I found this information from Paul Sloane. He’s a creative thinker and the founder of Destination Innovation.
Try to practice asking more questions in your everyday conversations. Instead of telling someone something, ask them a question. Intelligent questions stimulate, provoke, inform and inspire. Questions help us to teach as well as to learn.
I definitely agree with Mr. Sloane. How about you?