Friday, August 21, 2009

question - or statement?

One of the things that truly annoys me is when someone asks a question - but it is really a statement of what they believe. You know the type of question I am thinking about:
  • Don't you think it's better if __________________?
  • Could you explain to me why _________________?
  • I'm wondering why they ____________________?

I really wish people would turn these questions into statements that would more accurately reflect their thoughts:

  • I believe it would be better if _________________.
  • I'm angry about __________________________.
  • It looks as if they _________________________.

What would be even better is if these same people could make their statement of belief, and then ask a follow up question that would lead to understanding and dialogue:

  • I believe it would be better if _________________; how do you see the situation?
  • I'm angry about __________________________; are you in a position to explain to me how this happened?
  • It looks as if they _________________________; I'm wondering if you could explain the reasons behind their decision.

Questions - posed correectly - can be powerful tools in coming to an understanding of people and events. I sat in an interview the other day and wanted to understand what the individual was passionate about and what was their so-called line in the sand. I struggled to word the question (I DID NOT want to ask, "tell me what you are passionate about?" or "tell me what your line in the sand is?"). So I carefully worded my question as "tell me about a time that you lost it and became very angry over an incident." The response told me exactly what I wanted to know - and gave great insight into the HEART of this person.

Next time you get ready to ask a question, consider these few items:

  1. do you already know the answer you want to hear? if so, there's no need to ask the question
  2. is the question more of a statment of what you believe? if so, state it in a declarative form
  3. what do you really want to know? think hard about that before asking your question
  4. will the question move the conversation forward - or put up someone's defensive nature?
  5. how does this question fit within the context of what is being discussed at the given moment?

A final thought: if, at the end of the day, you were to do a tally of questions asked and statements made, which one would have the greater number? Consider that question as you go through this day - and the difference it makes depending on which side the scale falls.

1 comment:

gmoore said...

Couldn't agree more Don. So often, especially in public discourse, questions seem to be more 'agenda' driven than truly probing. Being willing to actually seek information with questions - means we have to be willing to actually hear the answer - and at times have our own thinking challenged!