Asking Questions

I spent a lovely weekend with my son over the Easter holiday.  He is a very curious 3 year old as all 3 year olds are.  As much as it often drives his parents crazy he never fears asking his barrage of questions:

  • What happened
  • Why
  • What is that
  • Where …

He will often ask the question to his Mom and then turn to me or then to another person until he gets the answer.

This had me think, what ever happens with us that stops that inquisitive nature.  He never assumes he understands and even when he does he often drills down on things.  If we don’t answer the question one day, you can be sure that he will wake up in the morning with that being his first question.

As much as this can be aggrevating, there are many lessons here:

  1. It should never be embarassing to ask the question if you have a natural and genuine interest in understanding.
  2. If you don’t get an answer, or it doesn’t make sense
    – Ask again
    – Ask someone else
    – Ask the question a different way
  3. If we ask too often the people we are asking will let us know
  1. Jim Reply

    Sometimes silence or a questioning look is the best question. I agree with Stephen that it must not be contrived but authentic. If you are really interested in hearing the person then it will not be contrived. However these skills need lots of practice.

  2. Stephen Reply

    I think also the Columbo model of the penetrating question as you are leaving is still a very valid additional style.
    The only caution is that doing things in a scripted manner can sometimes seem trite.

  3. Jim Reply

    My favourite Harvey question we used when we were doing an assessment of a situation on a consulting job was at the end of an interview, “is there some question you would like to answer that I haven’t asked?” You would be amazed at the thing that would come out. Another good one “Is there anything else I should know?”

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