When asked a question, one of my math teachers in school very often retorted with – If you do not even know this much, I don’t know what to do with you!

We felt that we were asking simple or silly questions and that our basic concepts were not sound.  We were exposing our ignorance by not asking the right questions!

We did not want to do that.

We felt we did not belong in that class.

The pressure to ask the right question can be so damning! Instead of triggering a discovery, a question becomes a way to display smarts.

I see this so often as I coach professionals. They tell me – I am learning. Once I have built my knowledge, I will be able to ask smart questions.

They want to learn in isolation and feel confident to ask questions during meetings.

We need to get our relationship with questions right.

Questions do reveal your previous knowledge and preparedness for the conversation we are having, but they do so much more.

  • They also reveal your curiosity and hunger to know more. They begin new quests.
  • Questions clarify goals, doubts, and differences and help find common ground.
  • With questions, you double-click on what you think you know and challenge your assumptions. They help you get new perspectives and think broader and deeper.
  • Questions are a tool to influence others and get support for your ideas.
  • Questions improve performance, spur innovation, and uncover risks.
  • Questions are generative. You ideate and challenge norms and biases through them and create plans to realize your vision.
  • You invite others in with questions, start conversations, show concern, and build rapport. You engage and bond with people by showing attention and interest in others through questions.
  • Questions have the power to change cultures and start revolutions. 

What is your existing relationship with questions? In what ways do you already use questions effectively? What is one new way in which you want to start using questions going forward?