Questions are a great tool for learning. When properly crafted and used, questions generate rich ideas, bring clarity and produce new knowledge. So, developing your art of questioning is a skill worth working on. HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s some guidance. A skilful question;
Does not do multiple choice: These are questions asked and immediately followed by Ã¢â‚¬ËœDo you think itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s because of XXX or YYYÃ¢â‚¬â„¢. This might be an attempt to clarify the question further but often undermines what might have been an interesting or even profound response. Ã¢â‚¬ËœMultiple choiceÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ questions might be useful where thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s little time to get a full response or where when all you need is a short one. Otherwise, keep them open-ended and allow that to open up the conversation.
Is not a speech in disguise: A person might ask a question and without waiting for an answer launch into a little speech about what they themselves think about the question they have asked. Courteous practice is to get a response first and then share your opinion. After all, you asked the question because you wanted to know more. If the question gets thrown back at you, as sometimes happens then of course, you may oblige. However, plan A must be to ask, stop and listen.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â
Does not interrogate: Most people are put off by questions that make them feel interrogated or where they sense a hidden agenda.Ã‚Â Avoid coming across as interrogating by not using a negative or aggressive tone. An example sounds like this- Ã¢â‚¬ËœWhy are you not XXX? As a rule of thumb, aim to use your questions to move ideas forward, enrich conversations and generate learning.
Is not ambiguous: A question need not be longwinded. Unfortunately some are so long and in so many directions that in the end itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s unclear what the key question is. Make it easy for your question to be understood by being straightforward. Take a second to think about your question before you ask it so that it is not unnecessarily wordy or complicated. If itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s say 3 questions in one, ask them separately or state clearly that they three. That way, the person will not need to work this out themselves.
Triggers reflective conversation: Skilful questions are thought provoking.Ã‚Â They are not based on any pre-conceived assumptions and often generate new insights. Ask questions that are you can reasonably expect the person to be able to answer. And when you ask, show genuine interest in the responses. Ask questions that you believe in and not one that someone has asked you to put forward. This way if you are asked to clarify your question, you can do so.
Now take action: Practice 5 questions this week with a friend in a role play.