The Art Of Asking Questions

Posted on September 11th, 2017 by John Hackett

Questions

Do you remember Art Linkletter?

Maybe not unless you are my age. Art said, “Kids say the darndest things.”

I have a three-year-old grandson, and I can attest to Art’s remarks.I also notice my grandson asks a lot of questions and waits for an answer and asks another question.

He is genuinely curious and wanting to know.


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A sad thing happens with questioning with age according to Warren Berger. In his book, A More Beautiful Question he reports that from age 5 -18 the number of questions asked declines rapidly. He points to many causes. School’s focus on answers: fear of being wrong, peer pressure, etc. Not asking questions curbs curiosity and learning in all of us.I am sure every one of us can think of a situation which played out poorly because we didn’t gather enough information or listen to the responses or instructions.

How then do we address these challenges?

I believe we need to rethink the issue. Questioning and listening are not genetic gifts - they are learn-able skills. We can stop blaming and start learning and practicing better questioning and listening skills.

The Art Of Asking Questions

Here are five steps to begin learning or relearning the skill of asking questions:

  1. Become aware of your type of questions and the pace of questions. If you are responding quickly, you may not be listening.
  2. Do the questions you ask encourage or discourage communication? A clue: ask a trusted friend for honest feedback.
  3. Make a commitment to learn to ask questions and listen more effectively.
  4. Ask yourself if your questions seem to encourage or discourage communication? If your questions elicit brief “yes or no “ replies, consider using open-ended questions which encourage responses and expand communication. These questions start with who, what, where and how.
  5. Practice, reflect and be kind to yourself. Listening is a skill. Practice taking a breath after a question and focusing on the person.

Remember it has probably been awhile since you were 3 years old and was good at asking questions.


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About the Author

John Hackett, Ed.D is an accomplished and experienced coach, trainer, and leader in a variety of nonprofit and direct sales settings. He has 45 years of professional experience serving as professor, licensed counselor, and high school administrator, as well as a university administrator. John is a DSWA Certified Trainer and can be reached at john@dswa.org.