Why You Should Ask More Questions (and Actually Care About the Answers)
Ask 10 questions tomorrow.
You’ll be amazed if you do.
You’ll learn something new, stimulate ideas, or be inspired. You’ll hear something that will make you laugh, make you think, or maybe change your life in some way (big or small).
Questions lead to conversations, and conversations lead to important and lasting relationships.
It all starts with a question.
Creativity and leadership expert Paul Sloane, author of 17 books including The Innovative Leader, believes that asking questions is the single most important habit for innovative thinkers. He says, “Brilliant thinkers never stop asking questions because they know that this is the best way to gain deeper insights.”
But here’s the thing — A question is really only a question if you actually care about the answer. Questions are meaningless if you aren’t engaged or interested in the response. You can’t just absentmindedly check a box with this exercise.
Learning from others is a conscious choice. It is an attitude and a mindset. It is believing that there is something interesting on the other end of your question.
This is a concept that Bernie Roth, Co-founder of the Stanford Institute of Design, writes about in his inspirational new book, The Achievement Habit. Roth says, “Even on a subconscious level, people pick up on it when you’re asking throwaway questions. Don’t fill the space with them. If you’re going to ask your co-worker ‘How’s your day?’ be present for the answer.”
It is easy to go through the day focused internally or talking about ourselves, or believing we already know the answers. Or asking questions for the purpose of making ourselves look good, or jumping in to someone’s answer because we have something seemingly better to say.
Roth cautions against this, saying “Even if you think you know what they will be saying or you have heard it before, don’t interrupt or tune out. Don’t be in your head preparing your reply while they are talking. Be willing to lose your thought no matter how brilliant it is.”
Other people shy away from asking questions because it could make them look unsure or uninformed. But having the confidence to ask questions is actually an indication of great strength and leadership.
Your worldview and perspective will only truly expand when you engage externally with sincere questions and conversation.
Whether those questions are directed towards your spouse, friends, co-workers, neighbors, or complete strangers, ask 10 of them tomorrow.
Maybe the answers will help solve a problem you’ve been struggling with, or spark a new idea, or entertain you for a few minutes. Maybe they’ll lead to a new relationship.
Genuine questions will certainly lead to something valuable.
No question about it.