When was the last time you asked an intelligent question? Why is that the frequency of your questions decreased as you grew from a child to an adult? What prevents you from asking questions now? Is it stage fright? These are important questions.
But more importantly, you need to relearn the art of asking questions. Why is this important? This is important because asking questions enable you to think with clarity. It helps you to communicate to the other person that you are serious about the matter under discussion. Questions help us to gather vital information, show genuine interest, clarify doubts, etc.
“It has been said that the whole art of gaining and of communicating knowledge consists in asking the right questions. It could be said that the way to certainty is to have the right kind of doubt.”1
A child is able to ask many questions because the child has a sense of wonder. Most questions begin with “Why?” in childhood. So to ask good questions, you need to be curious.
In a business setting, a few questions can really get you a lot of information. Having the right kind of information is an absolute must in decision-making; isn’t it?
Basically, there are two types of questions? One is the closed question. The other is the open-ended question. Closed question requires only a short response. Did you watch the movie yesterday? This just requires a Yes or No response.
On the other hand an open-ended question encourages the listener to talk more. Questions like, “Why do you think there are less women CEO’s in the industry? Is it because they hit the glass ceiling?” can make people talk and air their opinions.
If you ask questions aggressively, it can make people nervous and put them on the defensive. Many people are afraid to face questions because they have terror-filled experiences about it from School. So you need to be gentle when you ask questions. And show proper respect wherever and to whosoever it is due.
At the same time, asking wrong questions can show your lack of intelligence. It can reveal your ignorance and also make people question your credibility as well. Therefore do a lot of homework before you ask questions.
Finally, if you know how to ask questions, you can trap those who wanted to trap you. Here is a classic example:
Some people wanted to trap Jesus Christ. They came to him saying, “We know you are a man of integrity . . . Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesear or not?” But Jesus knew their evil intent and asked them why they were trying to trap him. He asked them, “Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” When they brought the coin (a denarius) to him, Jesus asked, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” “Casear’s,” they replied. Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”2
This type of asking questions to turn the tables is an art. You too can be good at it if you try. Remember, sometimes the difference between failure and success in life is simply your ability to ask the right questions!
So what is the question you asked today?
1From the book, The Master’s Men by William Barclay