Sunday, February 07, 2010

Curious about Questions: Do You Ask Good Ones? And Are They Expanding Your Horizons?

'How do you know so much about everything?' was asked of a very wise and intelligent man; and the answer was 'By never being afraid or ashamed to ask questions as to anything of which I was ignorant.'” - John Abbott, British statesman

Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” - Tony Robbins, American author

This weekend, I have been preparing for a workshop called, “Breaking the Conversation Barrier – What to Say after Saying ‘Hello.’” An important portion of the class is a section on questions. I even have cards that we use with conversation producing questions. I find that even with strangers, good questions can establish rapport almost immediately.

I have also found that when we ask thought provoking questions – rather than just a “How are you?” or “What do you think of this weather?” – we will find out so much more about a family member, a friend, a co-worker, or someone we have just met. People love to talk about themselves, so when we ask an open ended question that focuses on them or their opinion, they will usually open right up.

Good questions are also helpful when marketing, selling, networking, or socializing. We also need to ask ourselves good questions which help us to clarify, set worthwhile goals and intentions, and focus. The answers are not always what we want to know or hear.

In checking out the quotations containing “questions,” I found 14 filled pages of great quotations, so let me share a few:
  • In order for answers to become clear, the questions have to be clear.” - Abdolkarim Soroush, Iranian philosopher
  • I love the early process of asking questions about a story and deciding which questions matter most.” - Diane Sawyer, American journalist
  • I found I wasn't asking good enough questions because I assumed I knew something. I would box them into a corner with a badly formed question, and they didn't know how to get out of it. Now, I let them take me through it step by step, and I listen.” - Alan Alda, American actor
  • Take the attitude of a student, never be too big to ask questions, never know too much to learn something new.” - Og Mandino, American author
  • The simplest questions are the most profound. Where were you born? Where is your home? Where are you going? What are you doing? Think about these once in a while and watch your answers change.” - Richard Bach, American novelist
  • You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” - Naguib Mahfouz, Egyptian novelist
  • Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” – Voltaire, French writer

And three more to think about and chew upon:

  • If you are going to ask yourself life-changing questions, be sure to do something with the answers.” - Bo Bennett, American businessman
  • Dreams are today's answers to tomorrow's questions.” Edgar Cayce, American celebrity
  • There is frequently more to be learned from the unexpected questions of a child than the discourses of men.” - John Locke, English philosopher

So, how useful are your questions? My suggestion to be prepared every day with a good question to ask everyone you come in contact with. Just make sure that it is a question that you are comfortable with asking yourself first.