I have a confession to make: I totally and completely suck at asking questions. It’s not that I don’t want to learn more about others or that I don’t think there’s anything they can teach me. I just really don’t know what to ask them. I mostly ask close-ended questions and I often times even present the options. I’ve also been told (more often than I like to admit!) that the questions I ask sound like answers. And I completely forget to ask follow-up questions which makes people think I’m not interested in what they have to say. To be bad at asking questions doesn’t seem like such a big deal at first sight. After all, at school and business we learn to give presentations (i.e. monologues) and not how to converse, so it mustn’t be that important as a skill, right?
In reality, the times I’ve improved the most in my professional life is by being asked excellent questions; questions that hint at untravelled paths and invite me to follow them; questions that made me think I can actually do this; questions that offer perspectives. After long years of ignoring question asking, I realized that the power of a good question is likely to be the most under-used power in the world.
By focusing too much on ourselves or leading the conversation to get us liked, we often forget that we can only say what we know – the real opportunity to learn and improve comes from receiving information from others. Asking questions is the only way to expand our own minds. Perhaps more importantly even, they open roads to others and to help them unlock the best versions of themselves. All this got me thinking: what were the questions that helped me the most in my life? What questions do I ask myself regularly?
In the “Questions that change us” series we will explore the power of good questions. We will invite you to ask yourself things you haven’t probably asked before. We will search for questions that change our perspective and offer ways forward. We will suggest questions that fundamentally shift the way we see the world. All of this with one single goal: to free ‘the better angels of our nature’, to use Lincoln’s beautiful expression.
Here is the most up-to-date list of all posts in the series:
- A review of QBQ (Question Behind Question); an excellent little book on asking questions that unlock the power of accountability and ownership: http://subtleways.blog/2020/03/24/the-answers-are-in-the-questions/
- An excellent paragraph quoting Tony Robbins on the power of good questions: http://subtleways.blog/2020/03/28/%d1%82he-quality-of-your-life-is-a-function-of-the-quality-of-questions-you-ask-yourself/