Monday, November 21, 2011

Ask Good Questions

Do you ask questions? The questions we need or want to ask are often the ones that help us find the answers.

Questions work best if they are relatively short and direct. Complex questions can get us bogged down in terms of perspective and framework as well as intention. Extremely complex questions can also confuse the person who is suppose to be answering them.  A complex question may not get answered because the "answerer" may loose his or her sense of place. 

Gary Lockwood said "a significant reason to ask good questions is to help the person you are asking. Asking well-crafted, intelligent questions causes people to think profoundly. When someone thinks more deeply than before, new ideas, new answers and new possibilities emerge".

Everyone asks questions throughout their day and life. They can be internal questions or external ones. Take for example the internal question Shall I work on this task or another? This small question will drive our actions. By making sure your internal questions are positive, you can have more impetus to move forward. A negative internal question creates a bad starting attitude and may delay your progress. Shall I work on this mind numbing task or quit for the day? Work to compose your internal questions to get the best results.
External questions such as Do you (my boss) want me to work on this assignment now?, can be altered by inflection of the voice or a significant pause. Do you want me to work on this assignment NOW? can be taken as a passive aggressive statement. So be mindful of how you present your questions as much as choosing what to ask.  

When you ask questions is also an important factor. A question answered by a tired individual or someone who wants to leave the room is likely not to be as good as from someone who is refreshed and energized. Make your questions count, choose to ask them in the best possible time. When the timing is bad try to communicate at a later time. Delayed questions may still be answered, and in fact getting better results. 

Spend some time over the next few weeks observing how you ask questions. Review if your questions are getting answered. See if your questions get thoughtful answer. If your answers are not clear start working on your questioning skills. 

Working on our questions is a lifelong journey. In the words of Francis Bacon - "Who questions much, shall learn much, and retain much". Improve your questioning skills and improve your life.






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