The Power and Process of Asking – and Answering – Questions
If you don’t ask the right questions, you don’t get the right answers. A question asked in the right way often points to its own answer. Asking questions is the A-B-C of diagnosis. Only the inquiring mind solves problems.
— Edward Hodnett, author
One of the best gifts my father ever gave me was the ability to ask questions. His famous refrain was, “If you don’t know, ask.” He taught me never to be ashamed to ask a question for clarification or if I was confused about a point a teacher made. He reminded me that sometimes others had the same questions, and even encouraged me to ask questions when I did know the answer if I suspected there were others who didn’t quite understand the topic being explained at the moment.
My dad was a wise man.
Asking questions is a fantastic growth tool, for many reasons. The mere phrasing of a thought in the form of a question causes our brain instantly to begin to solve the problem as it works on answering the question. Simple things – like changing to the phrase, “I can’t find my keys” to “Where are my keys?” can make a huge difference. Bigger things, too. Imagine how our lives would change if, instead of saying something like, “I don’t know how to . . .” we were to say, “I wonder how to . . .?”
Asking questions is essential if we are to continue growing. Because our knowledge becomes obsolete at various times throughout our lives, it becomes crucial to question our assumptions. Sometimes, when we’ve seemingly forgotten how to ask questions because the curiosity has been stomped out of us in our efforts to conform to society and fit in, we must relearn how to learn.
Searching questions can help us discover new opportunities, uncover the roots of a problem and find creative solutions. Asking searching questions begins with challenging assumptions. It’s been said that the three most dangerous words in the English language are, “I know that.” If we do not check our assumptions, we cannot ask good searching questions.
Steer clear of the desire to ask one or two questions and hurtle toward a solution. An incomplete understanding of the problem makes it very easy to jump to erroneous or misleading conclusions. Open-ended questions allow us to elicit a wide range of answers to problems, challenges and conundrums. “Why” questions help us discover the roots of the problem. “How” questions provide different routes to significant answers or improvements.
Perhaps the biggest challenge to successfully using the process of asking questions comes in the willingness to admit, accept, and act on the answers. Self-discovery leads to self-growth, but only if we are willing participants. What kinds of questions are you asking yourself? And open are you to the answers?
LAURA ORSINI is the author of the forthcoming book, 1,001 Real-Life Questions for Women: A Self-Exploration Workbook to Make You Laugh, Cry, Ponder, Ruminate, & Consider. Sign up for her November 16 teleconference: In All Honesty – The Power and Process of Asking and Answering Questions and find other launch events at 1001RLQFW.com.