There are two types of questions:
- Those for which you want an answer.
- Those which lead to more questions.
The value of the first kind is we may get an insight on how to solve a problem. We stop asking the question once we have an answer. The value of the second kind is that it keeps exploration going. We aren’t looking for an answer, we’re looking for more questions. The first kind of question is useful, but the second kind of question is powerful. It is useful for others and for ourselves.
When interacting with someone,
- Be curious. When interacting with others, try to stay curious about the other person. What is their belief system? Why are they saying what they are saying?
- Be present. Try to be present and attentive. It helps to ask them something to validate what they are thinking. “It sounds like you are saying XYZ. Is that correct?” “I want to be sure I understand. Why are you saying that?” Both questions show your interest and increase empathy. You are listening to others’ stories to see the world through their eyes, beliefs, and experiences.
If they are thinking something you believe is not true, ask them how things are working for them and when they things are not working so well. The idea is to get them to reflect on their thinking. The goal is to engage in the questioning so that both of us learn. Perhaps each of us has something the other does not see. At least one of us is going to learn something. And once engagement begins, we are ready to see things anew.
Asking powerful questions requires humility and authenticity. It is very easy for questioning to become manipulative. People see through that. It does not lead to what you are looking for.