Ask Questions Instead of Providing Answers

Asking a question is a powerful tool.

I once took a class where the teacher focused on the power of a question. His name was Eugene Jennings and he wrote on the board these simple letters: Q/A.

His premise was that Questions were more powerful than Answers. His advice was to ask questions before providing answers.

I saw this happen in a meeting recently. We were discussing how to improve a process. One of the contributors in the meeting started several discussions by asking a question:

“Why wouldn’t we?”

“Have we tried this before?”

“Could we?”

There was no question that the question asker had a point of view, but before offering it (the answer), he asked a question.

Here’s what a question does:

It opens the minds of all those who are asked. In this case, it got the rest of the people around the table thinking of different ways or alternatives. It opened the process.

When we lead with answers, it can raise defenses. When you propose an alternative as an answer (I think this would be better…This is what we should try), the tendency is to defend what we are doing as compared to considering the new.

I know questions are best but we are conditioned to provide answers. I do it all the time.

But, employing the skill of asking questions is powerful. My experience reminded me that doing what I know makes sense.