Friday, March 28, 2014

asking the right question

In one of my meetings this week, we were talking about questions, and someone made the statement that when someone answers his question with another question, he  wants to "reach over and punch them" (said in jest of course).  We all laughed, especially knowing his personality and began talking about how people use questions to manipulate others, use questions to make a statement, and other thoughts around the use of questions.  Last night (in a conversation with someone a lot smarter than me) I posed a question and he had the gall to answer my question with another question...the only problem was that his question was a lot better than my question.  Needless to say, I did not reach over and punch him...what I did do was engage in a great dialogue about the questions we had posed.

As I write this blog, I am assuming that most people would agree that asking a great question can lead to some pretty significant answers.  The issue is not whether or not we ask enough questions - the issue is are we asking the RIGHT questions.  Here is a list of ideas of how we might be able to get to the right questions in our conversations:

  • Believe that questions are a really good way to get at the answer to a problem - REALLY believe it!
  • Check to make sure that you are not really making a statement of your own belief when you ask a question
  • Don't ask questions of others to which you already know the answer you want
  • Engage in asking questions that might not seem to have an answer
  • Be willing to think out-loud...and allow other to do the same
  • Embrace the "what if..." question
  • Practice the art of dialogue - ask, listen, speak, suspend, accept, ask, listen, speak...
  • Hang out with people a lot smarter than you and ask them your mosts pressing questions
  • Don't stop exploring the question until you believe you have the right question - and then ask a few more
  • Read great literature (because great literature deals with the big questions of life)
  • Read in areas of which you know very little (because you will come away with many more questions)
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions when you don't know something (remember the adage "there is no such thing as a dumb question")
  • Go ahead and answer a question with a question (and get ready to duck)
Two books to recommend on this subject:
  1. Mark Kurlanksy's What? (the entire book is a series of questions...great fun!)
  2. Michael Marquadt's Leading With Questions (interesting way of thinking about leading others)

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