The Power of Questions

| March 16, 2017 | 0 Comments

“The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”
– Thomas Berger –

Questions are immensely powerful. They can act as a catalyst for engaged, fruitful dialogue. Questions are also capable of diminishing the recipient and shutting down any reasonable exchange. As many do, I consider Socrates as the father of questions. Simplified, the Socratic method has five tenets. Questions should keep the discussion focused, keep the discussion intellectually responsible, stimulate the discussion, facilitate clarification and draw as many into the discussion as possible. Great filters to judge how we utilize questions.

We also employ questions in a less positive manner. They become emotional triggers to the ears of the recipient. Certainly the tone of voice and use of all ‘caps’ add to the tension. The cynical, “Do you really think the client will follow through?” The judgmental, “Did you do anything to verify these numbers?” Or, “Hmm, did you do something to your hair?” (This last question has greatest emotional power when delivered by Mom.) These questions are not mining for additional information or understanding. The reaction to such cloaked queries is most often defensive.

Think about how you ask questions. Consider your intent. Is it not a better use of your time and others to gain greater understanding, to broaden your view, to learn? Create a habit of asking thoughtful questions with an intent to gain knowledge. You will find that people more readily listen to your questions and engage in the dialogue. Help your team and peers move from a defensive posture when asked questions, and instead embrace the opportunity to learn.

Take a look at the questions above. How can you changing the wording in such a way that they will actually further the discussion and facilitate clarification and unearth important information? Have you asked 3 good questions this week?

I leave you with this quote: “If you don’t know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.” – W. Edwards Deming

Take care, Julia


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Category: Blog, Decision Making, Leadership


About the Author ()

Julia Hill-Nichols, SPHR, is the founder of LeadersCove, LLC. With over 30 years experience in operations and human capital management, Julia is gifted in the art and science of bridging strategic imperatives and a company’s human capabilities—executing for success, meeting bottom-line objectives and enlivening the people who are the organization’s lifeblood.

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