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How to Ask Better Questions

I read a great blog today in Psychology today about asking better questions. Often times the questions we ask get us into bad places. Why? Because the questions we ask often begin with wrong assumptions. Here are some examples:

  • Why are they so stupid?
  • Why does that person not like me so much?
  • How does our company get ourselves into trouble so much?

I could go on. The above questions all have one thing in common – assumptions. If we are going to get better results, many times we have to be asking better questions. Read the linked blog for some tips. But for now, here’s two simple tips I can give.

  1. First – ask yourself what assumptions underlie the questions you are asking. Then see if those assumptions are correct. For instance: “Why aren’t our people participating?” What’s the assumption here? The assumption is that your people aren’t participating. Is this true? Check it. See if they are indeed participating and find out how they are participating, then you can ask a better question.
  2. Second – don’t ask questions that include assumptions. Instead, consider the actions in question and the impacts they will have. For instance: “Why are they avoiding us?” The assumption here is that another individual or company is avoiding you. That’s an assumption. Instead ask: “These people have not taken our calls a dozen times, it’s making us feel ignored, let’s ask them how they missed a dozen of our calls and check to see if our assumption is correct.”

Too often we lead with assumptions. Think of it this way. If you had three cards to play in a conversation (Actions, Impacts, Assumptions), never play your assumption card. Instead, play your action and impact card. Check your assumption.


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