Asking Questions: The Solution to Everything
It seems that many things can be solved by asking questions. Okay, I know this can seem like common sense, however, I have two questions for you: 1) is common sense really that common?; and 2) just because we know something doesn’t mean that we understand and action it, right? After reflecting on how asking questions could be a solution to most of the issues we are confronted with, I’ve come to realize much of how we get in our own way is solved by asking questions.
Let’s examine the evidence. For Exhibit A, think about the last time you were frustrated with someone else. In my case, I believed that the other individual was being intentionally problematic on a specific subject. Now reflect on the thoughts that were going through your head. Notice something about them? They were all statements about the person and their behavior, right? If you did happen to ask yourself a question, it was more rhetorical, wasn’t it? For example, why is he/she such a butt [or insert another word here]? Now let’s apply our learned solution of asking questions. And when I say “asking questions” I mean inquisitive, open-ended questions, such as what is leading me to believe that this individual is difficult? What is another way I can interpret their behavior? Or, you can openly ask them a question (not an accusatory one – so watch your tone), such as “Am I right in thinking that you disagree with me?” or “I’m sensing some resistance, what’s going on here for you?” In essence, ask whatever question you feel will get them to open up the most without getting too defensive.
Let’s look at some more evidence, Exhibit B. Think about the last time you were frustrated with a situation, process, rule, or some other circumstance. Now reflect on the thoughts that were going through your head. Again – notice that they were either all statements or questions that were not truly curious. For example, I was recently helping an organization with their processes to become more effective in how they completed a specific task. My initial thought was what they were currently doing was archaic and asinine. However, I quickly switched to practicing what I preach and got curious about how they came to be in that situation. After asking several questions, it made a lot of sense how they ended up where they did with the process, and we were able to use that information to get to them a more effective state.
In conclusion, the goal is to stop yourself from making up those stories in your head about others and situations. Instead, train yourself to stop the incessant internal chatter and to ask yourself and those involved curious, open-ended questions to get to the truth of the matter.