The power of asking questions

Who of us doesn’t like being asked questions about ourselves (unless they are invasive, of course)?

But when we’re grabbing lunch with someone, few of us enjoy listening to that person just talk about themselves the entire time without asking anything about us. It is a part of our human nature. 

While we can easily talk about ourselves, there is a higher draw and genuine interest for others to have in us when we are asking sincere questions about them. Plain and simple: Interesting people are interested people.

People are drawn to people who are full of great questions in intrigue for life, work and others. This is because questions hold a unique power of unlocking value in our relationships, co-workers and team members. 

Particularly in the role of leaders, across many fields, skills and workplaces, asking great questions opens the potential to understand our teams more effectively and help them discover their strengths and succeed in their roles.

What kind of power do questions have? Questions give us the ability to increase personal development, relational development and sharpen emotional intelligence that often goes unutilized.

Questions create conversation. In some sense, questions can offer a bit of a tennis match. It would be quite boring to sit at a tennis game and watch a player repeatedly hit a ball with no interaction from the other side of the court. Even if Venus Williams practiced, it might lose our attention quite quickly if all she was doing was hitting a ball and no one ever hit it back. Granted, if you put Venus Williams in a court against anyone, it is a completely different experience. 

When we are the only ones ever speaking during a conversation, we’re not necessarily holding the person’s interest across from us or engaging them at all. When we’re on the other side of asking all the questions, we rarely feel engaged. A one-way conversation is more of a running commentary than it is an authentic conversation.

Questions connect us with others. Just as in the tennis scenario, questions allow us to connect. We can easily interact with others without ever connecting. But when we seek to ask the right questions, we start to connect with others.

By asking questions, we are suddenly allowing ourselves to be captivated by a life story or experience other than our own which can be informative, life-giving and, in some cases, transformative.

Questions can allow you to see the greater potential. Once we learn how to ask questions and join in this joy of conversing with others, we quickly see more depth to people than we ever thought possible. When we have discovered this, we are beginning to unlock the power of asking questions. 

But then, we can learn there are good questions and there are great questions.

Good questions bring change. Great questions bring transformation. Good questions get to the surface of things. Great questions cause us to do some digging. 

For example, you could easily ask (as most of us already tend to do), “How are you doing?” But most of us deliver that question as a courtesy – to acknowledge we see someone. Most often, we’re also asking it because it’s not getting too deep, and we’re expecting the standard response of “busy” or “fine.” It’s staying at the surface.

Instead, try asking someone about the best part of their day, that way you’re asking for more than just surface-level information. 

When we ask great questions, we are seeking to learn more about that individual. When we ask great questions, we are expecting more than what is at the surface. More often than not, a great question also allows others to learn more about themselves. 

When we think of others and engage with them, questions have great power in leadership and in life. When we set out to connect, learn and understand those around us, great questions can bring change both to us and the world at large.