“In the word question, there is a beautiful word – quest. I love that word.” – Elie Wiesel
Questions help us challenge existing ideas, discover new beliefs, find higher ground and keep climbing. And, as Warren Berger says in A More Beautiful Question, “You don’t learn unless you question.”
We may think we ask a lot of questions, but according to Harvard Business Review, only 15-25% of interactions are questions. As children, our question to statement ratio was switched and there was an endless supply of “what’s that?” and “why?” If questions are how we learn, why has questioning dropped so precipitously in adulthood and what are the implications?
When you were in school, you likely received rewards for answering questions. These incentives have probably continued into your adult life. Starting in early school years, we began to learn that it is answering – not asking – questions that get us what we want: recognition.
As we grow older, practical considerations take over. We are overwhelmed with so many things to do that we rush in the things we do as adults. There is no time to slow down and ask the important questions. Mark Twain said, “Life is one damn thing after another.”
We need to take the time now to ask the right questions so that we can save time in the future. Early questions lead to less rework, deeper understanding and better decisions down the road. In short: go slow to go fast.
Questions are beautiful. They can steer a conversation, expand a view, challenge and affirm understandings, and more.
In business presentations, the art of asking questions is fundamental to “Speaking Simply.”
In “Relearning the Art of Asking Questions“, Pohlmann and Thomas propose four types of questions we can ask to add balance to our presentations:
1. Clarifying: Questions that help us better understand what has been said
Example: Can you tell me more?
2. Adjoining: Questions that explore related aspects of a subject to gain a broader understanding
Example: What are the related uses of this product?
3. Funneling: Questions that dive deeper to understand how a conclusion was made
Example: Why did you do add this step?
4. Elevating: Questions that look at the bigger picture
Example: What is the bigger issue? How does it tie in with the smaller issues?
To move forward, be conscious of how many questions you ask per day. Ask a friend to count how many questions you ask in a natural conversation with him. You might be surprised at how small the number is. Try to expand that number in the future.
Ask yourself: when should you be asking more questions? Can you ask a more beautiful question?