Lesson 10 Module 2
Curiosit (Productive) Questions
Asking the right question at the right time can be the best way to help:
Jonas Salk, the researcher who developed the polio vaccine said "The answer to any problem pre-exists. We need to ask the right questions to reveal the answer". Source:
Asking questions is a skill required by people in their professional and, perhaps more important, their personal relationships.
Powerful questions are asked from a position of curiosity, of wanting to know and understand.
If you're a parent, I bet you have many fond memories of the word … why? And I bet there were times when it drove you nuts.
Some toddlers start asking 'Why?' from around 2 years of age. They're curious; They want to know; They want to understand. It's their way to keep you chatting with them. When you respond to them, you validate them. They feel valued.
It's the same with adults. We want to be validated. We have a need to matter, to be heard and when you ask intelligent questions to learn more about what they are interested in they feel good about themselves and you.
When you ask questions that are congruent with the speakers content, you demonstrate to them that you're listening to them. Can you ask appropriate questions if you are not listening?
Asking relevant questions demonstrates that you are listening, which in turn empowers the person and they feel valued. You care enough to listen to them.
Curious questions are productive questions.
We all know about closed and open questions.
Open questions lead to more exploration.
Closed questions such as, "do you think that was the right choice to make?" has two responses. Yes or no.
Encourage the expansion of ideas
Trigger thinking outside the box
Causes people to reflect
Develop understanding and perspective
Encourages the person to keep talking
Examples of productive questions are:
How did you get started?
What did that involve?
Can you tell me how you did that?
Is there something stopping you at the moment?
How will you turn this idea into action?
That sounds great. How will you make it work?
Are there any other options?
What other options do you have?
What have you tried so far?
How do you think you will feel when you achieve your goal?
There are links to more examples in the course documents.
Productive questions are used to gather data from free and deleted information.
The speaker will often give what we call 'free information'. That is, they provide you information without you asking for it.
If you ask questions about that free information, you are following the set the speaker's agenda and not your own.
Productive questions are used to discover deleted information. These are thoughts that remain incomplete. For example. A work colleague says to you,
"I don't like what this committee is doing."
They have not described what they don't like about the committee. You can recover this information by asking...
"What is it that they are doing that you don't like?"
Sometimes things get distorted.
A friend might say, every time I go to the supermarket I have to queue for ages.
The productive question to use here is "Every time?" This identifies the distortion for what it is.
"I don't like the changes at work?"
"What changes are the changes that you don't like?"
Or you could block any further discussion by asking…
"It's to be expected that some people won't like the changes."
You have just told this person that their opinion is not important effectively removing their indirect desire to talk about what they don't like about the changes. When this happens, the person feels devalued and that their concerns of little or no importance.
Negative use of questions
The premature solution giver
Have you ever want to discuss a problem and the person listening to you leaps on the first issue and offers you an answer?
More often than not, the speaker did not want to talk about the solution offered because it wasn't their real concern. By interrupting, the Listener has diverted the conversation onto what they want to talk about.
If you ask a probing personal question before trust has been established, the speaker will change the subject diverting the conversation onto a more comfortable topic.
Asking an unrelated question breaks the flow of the conversation. This happens because the Listener wants to talk about what is of interest to them.
Of course, closed questions can kill a conversation making progress very difficult.
Another issue to avoid is interrogation.
If you listen to talkback radio and some television interviewers you will often see and hear journalists interrogate the speaker instead of asking productive questions. They will badger the speaker in an attempt to get the answer the journalist wants.
The interviewer has a plan to get a specific more sensational newsworthy answer from the interviewee.
These are statements disguised as questions.
"You don't trust politicians do you?"
You don't want to go out tonight, do you?
Take control of the conversation by asking, "I don't know if you're asking me a question or telling me something?"
Why not why
Also 'why' questions tend to put people on the defensive. You are more likely to get a more in-depth answer if you ask, 'how come' rather than 'why?'
Try it for yourself. Make a statement and then get the person to ask you 'why?'
And then repeat the exercise getting them to ask 'how come?'
Check and see if you can feel the difference.
One word of caution. Be careful not to overdo questions. Asking too many can cause the speaker to feel like they are being interrogated, which will undo the good you have done.
Related Articles and Videos
Kathy O'Brien's LinkedIn article The Curious Case of the Question.
The article asking Clean Questions is by Judy Rees.
TED X video The Value of Asking Questions | D X video | Karen Maeyens
"A beautiful question is an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we percieve or think something_and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change."
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