Asking good questions is the best way to gain deeper insights, develop stronger relationships, and create more innovative solutions. I often wonder why more of my clients don’t ask ask people questions more often.
Kids learn when they ask questions. Little kids, students in schools, new employees, the best sales people – all learn better when they ask questions. It’s an effective and simple skill. But if someone thinks they should know it all, they stop asking and start telling and selling.
An interesting question any manager can ask is “What is one thing I might do to make things better for you?” And then stop talking and listen closely. You can learn a lot from listening to others – including what they think, how they think, and a better way to engage them in collaborative problem solving.
I used to watch Columbo when I was young which was a a detective show starting Peter Falk. He always asked good and probing questions (often to the annoyance of others). He gathered a lot of data and solved the mystery (always by the end of the show!). Philosophers, inventors, explorers, all ask good questions in order to solve problems, make better decisions and develop better strategies. So if asking questions is such a powerful and useful skill, why don’t more of my clients ask questions?
Some folks think they either know everything or are supposed to know everything. Some already have made an assumption and don’t want to gather information that might conflict with what they already believe. And some may think that asking questions makes them look tentative and they want to appear decisive.
I’ve also found that many people have a self-imposed sense of urgency and think that asking questions might slow them down. But by not taking the time to ask questions, they often end up rushing off into the wrong direction.In fact, asking questions shows that you are interested in learning. It’s not a sign of weakness or uncertainty
In my work, I’ve developed a reputation for asking good, thoughtful, and though-provoking questions. My questions are intended to stimulate, provoke, and offer everyone the opportunity to learn. So if you find yourself telling and selling and the other person isn’t ‘buying’ – try to stop yourself. Begin with basic open-ended questions (questions that can’t be answered with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’ These give the other person or people chance to give you a broader answer, allowing them to provide information and open things up for a discussion.
As you listen, you may find additional questions come to you like ‘Why?’ or “How did you get that information?” Keep asking questions to get a better understanding of how the other person thinks and why they think the way they do.
Caution: Columbo annoyed a lot of people on his TV show and asking too many questions can make you look like you are putting someone through a police interrogation. Make sure you don’t sound accusatory. (“What do you think happened?” will be received better than “Are you responsible for this mess?”)
If asking questions isn’t your usual conversational style, practice, practice, practice. When you find yourself starting to tell someone something, pause and then ask a question. Good questions intelligent questions can stimulate, provoke, inform and even motivate someone. Questions can help us learn AND teach others. .