The Art of Asking the Right Questions

It wasn’t all that long ago the most direct path to answers you could rely on was to pull down the correct volume of an encyclopedia and start your search. . .today, efficient answers look a little different as you “ask Alexa”. While information is more accessible and the path to answers more efficient, it is important that we continue to know what questions to ask, who to ask our questions and where to find our answers. 

What Questions Should We Ask?

Asking the right questions is the most essential part of getting the right answers. Unlike the Socratic dialogues of Plato’s “Republic”, we do not want to live in a loop of questions only. We want the correct answer and we want it on the first ask. This is only possible if we are framing our questions correctly. The steps to forming great questions include:

  • Be Direct- You want to set the conversation in the right direction and make sure that what you want to know is clear before the dialogue gets too far.
  • Avoid rhetorical questions- If you are asking a rhetorical question, then you are trying to prove a point instead of trying to seek understanding. Look for another blog on how to effectively prove a point if that is your goal, this post is not for you.
  • Ask Open Ended Questions- If you want the quick one off answer you can “Ask Alexa” or “Google it”. If you are gaining insight from someone else, allow them to expand on the thought.
  • Ask then listen- After you ask your question, listen. Do not spend the time after you ask the question, creating the next question. Use the time hearing the insight you just sought and let that steer the conversation.
  • Reflect, revise, ask again- If the answers you are seeking are not the answers you are needing, it is time to reflect on what you have heard and revise the questions to get back on track. 

Who Should We Ask?

We know which coworker to ask to help with a task and we know which friend to ask for advice. When we need work done on our car we ask a mechanic. When we need work done on our teeth we ask a dentist. When we need a morning pick me up we ask a barista. Knowing who to ask questions can be this second nature as well. In selecting who to ask follow these three simple steps:

  • Ask who has mentioned this before- Take a quick inventory of interests of the people in your network and decide who has mentioned something similar.
  • Ask how much information do you need- An expert is awesome but unless you are aiming to write a dissertation on the topic you likely are seeking a succinct response. If you have a colleague who is an expert but tends to ramble, you may want to ask someone else.
  • Ask who will have NEW information-You likely have prior knowledge on the subject if you are asking a question. While you need to bridge the gap between what you know and what you are learning, you want to get information that is going to move you forward in your process. Don’t be afraid to venture beyond your network if you know there is an opportunity to get new knowledge from a new source.

Where should I seek answers?

We are deep enough in the information age to know that the answers are now available for all of us. The problem is that we are not always sure where to find this information. Some questions are for “alexa” and some are for an expert. Here is a quick guide on how to pick the right source of information.

  • Alexa/Wikipedia If the question is close ended, you should ask “Alexa”. You do not need an expert to say “yes” or “no” and you do not need an expert to tell you a specific date or the name of the Principal in “Breakfast Club”.
  • Expert- If you have open ended questions or questions specific to someone’s experience it is time to tap an expert. If your question can spark conversation or guide conversation beyond the questions asked at pub trivia, it is time to get another person involved.

We have all heard the adage, “There is no such thing as a stupid question”. While this may be true there clearly are smarter ways to ask our questions. By knowing what to ask, who to ask and where to ask, we are much more likely to get the answers we need by the time we need it. 

Using Prox you are able to make sure you have your questions set, you are able to ask a vetted expert and you are able to ask it on a platform that you know is the right place to ask it. 

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