When it comes to moving forward, I often recommend that clients focus more on their questions than on their answers. Whether preparing for a job interview, gearing up for an important negotiation, or managing challenging communications with co-workers, think about how you can engage with a “questioning mindset.”
Here are three reasons I coach clients to keep questions front and center in their conversations:
- Questions Keep You In Control: It may seem obvious, but asking questions puts you in the driver’s seat when taking on your big challenges or goals. We typically spend time before important conversations making sure we have the answers for the questions we may be asked. In most cases, your time will be equally well-spent thinking about what you want to learn from the conversation. Before going into an important meeting, negotiation, or networking event, ask yourself “What do I want to have when this conversation is over that I don’t have now?” With clarity around your engagement goals, you’ll know what to ask to help you achieve them. Keep your hands firmly on the wheel by driving conversations with great questions.
- Questions Unlock Your Desired Learning and Growth: When trying to reach a new goal or overcome a challenge, one of the best places to start is by asking what it is that you don’t already know. An artist I once met at Burning Man explained that the easiest part of bringing her art installation to life was the initial creative concept. Once she knew what she hoped to build, she had to work backwards to fully understand all the things she did not know in order to build it. Only then could she go find the answers and make her goal a reality. How awesome, I thought, that this solo artist will realize her vision not just with materials and tools but with insights and ideas from many others. When you look at your challenge points this way – thinking about what it is that you don’t know and how you’re going to fill those gaps – you begin to see the importance of working just as hard on your questions as you do on your answers.
- Questions Deepen Your Engagement With Others: Just as you are in control of the conversation when you ask questions, you are also shining a spotlight on the other person with whom you are engaging. You are inviting someone else to share their insights and ideas. Since most people love to talk about what they are thinking or feeling, when you ask questions you are stroking the other person’s ego and building a deeper interpersonal engagement. The other party is likely to appreciate your valuing of their ideas and to be more positively drawn to you.
Embrace the question mark. It will get you a lot further than you may yet realize.