Proper questioning has become a lost art. The curious four year-old asks a lot of questions— incessant streams of “Why?” and “Why not?”— but as we grow older, our questioning decreases.
At work, we often reward people who answer questions, not those who ask them. Questioning conventional wisdom can even lead to being sidelined, isolated, or considered a threat.
We tend to jump to conclusions instead of asking more questions. The unfortunate side effect of not asking enough questions is poor decision making. That is why it is imperative to slow down and take the time to ask more and better questions.
Consider four types of questions –Clarifying, adjoining, funneling and elevating—each aimed at achieving a different goal.
Clarifying questions help us better understand what has been said. This can help uncover the real intent. “Can you tell me more?” and “Why do you say so?”
Adjoining questions are used to explore related aspects of the problem that are ignored in the conversation. Such as “What are the related uses of this technology?”
Funneling questions are used to dive deeper. To challenge assumptions, and to understand the root causes of problems. Such as, “How did you do the analysis?”
Elevating questions raise broader issues and highlight the bigger picture. They help you zoom out. Such as, “Taking a step back, what are the larger issues?” or “Are we even addressing the right question?”
In today’s always-on world, there’s a rush to answer. But we must slow down and understand one another better. Asking questions requires a certain amount of vulnerability, corporate cultures must shift to promote this behavior. Leaders should encourage people to ask more questions, relevant to the desired goals, instead of rushing them to a decision.
Smart people would rather risk looking stupid than be stupid.
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Ron Winnegrad has been a Perfumer and teacher for 46 years. As a perfumer, Ron has been able to express the world he sees through a rainbow of olfactive and emotive visions. As a teacher, Ron has helped others to see fragrance through his own multi sensorial lens.