I’ve always been a big questioner. Wherever you put me, I’m always chasing some curiosity or trying to puzzle something out. But it wasn’t until I started finding myself in roles where I was teaching others that I really started to grasp the powerful impact of asking great questions.
In every classroom and workplace around the world, the smartest people aren’t the ones with all the answers. The smartest people are the ones with all the questions.
Great questions aren’t just a way to learn something you don’t understand. A curious mind, in all things, is one of the greatest assets a person can have. It has far reaching benefits in your personal growth, relationships, self-confidence, and so much more.
Read on to see just what it is that makes great questions such a powerful tool, and how best to harness it.
Why Should We Ask More Questions?
The ability to ask great questions is a skill that runs deep, and has farther-reaching benefits than most people realize.
Far more than just a way to pick up information, asking great questions can:
- Lead to better connections and stronger relationships
- Help you to improve as a learner
- Unravel assumptions and give you new perspective
- Set and enforce personal boundaries
- Earn the respect of those around you
- Bring the joy of an inquisitive approach to life
A person who questions isn’t simply someone who doesn’t know something.
When you become an enthusiastic questioner, you become a person who is always learning, always exploring, always deepening their understanding of the world around them.
People who ask great questions come off as more intelligent, more confident, more empathetic, and more self-respecting than those who don’t. This can, in turn, earn a great deal of respect and appreciation from the people around you.
How to Ask Great Questions
There is no secret magic to being someone who asks great questions. It really comes down to engaging your natural curiosity often and without fear.
We all have this curiosity in abundance early in life. From day 1, really. But as we grow up, we develop insecurity. We learn to worry about how we’ll be perceived, and what others will say if we ask too many questions. Eventually we become adept at suppressing one of our greatest gifts: our curiosity.
Just ask. Look for the chances and take them. Whatever comes into your head that you’d like to know. Even if it’s a little weird, even if you “should know already,” even if you’re the only one asking. It’s always okay to ask questions.
Every day is made up of countless opportunities to better engage with the world around you by asking great questions. All it takes is to spot those opportunities, and take them often!
Below are some of the most frequent and impactful opportunities you’ll run into for asking better questions!
5 Ways to Practice Asking Great Questions
1. Be an Insatiable Learner
Great questions have always been one of the most essential tools of the classroom. They are a gift that each generation uses to pass knowledge onto the next. But of course, it shouldn’t end there. School is just the beginning of our education.
We don’t go to school just to learn, we go to school to learn how to learn. Studying the impact of irrigation on the growth of Mesopotamian society when you were in high school may have seemed completely useless. But it was in fact only mostly useless.
Hot facts about ancient Mesopotamia have rarely changed anyone’s life. Not every bit of knowledge we pick up needs to be totally game-changing.
Each new thing you learn about the world deepens your understanding and gives you new mental connections to make.
So keep asking, even and especially beyond the classroom. Indulge your curiosity. You will not only learn new things, you will become a better student of your world, and have fun doing it. Keep asking questions, and rediscover every day how amazing the world around you is.
2. Challenge Your Assumptions
You may think you know everything you know, but do you know that you know all you know? I used to think I knew everything I knew, but now I don’t really know, y’know?
I’ve been wrong about stuff I thought I knew more times than I can count. And if I did count, I’d probably end up wrong about that too.
Unearthing things we were wrong about is okay. It’s a healthy part of the learning process. And a great reason to question things more often.
We all separate our light-colored laundry from the dark because otherwise the colors would blend together. But would they though? I mean, they would. But would they though? Is it something you actually know, or something that you do because your parents did it, because their parents did it?
Challenging assumptions (both your own and the ones handed down to you) highlights new possibilities. It creates new opportunities to learn and to uncover new ways of thinking.
3. Practice Questioning as a Listener
In 1936, Dale Carnegie wrote what would go on to be one of the most influential books of all time: How to Win Friends and Influence People. Its thesis is as simple as it is meaningful:
People want to be heard and appreciated. Everyone wants to feel that their existence is recognized and valued by others.
This turns out to be remarkably easy to give to people by asking them great questions.
Next time you’re at a fancy cocktail party (or, let’s be honest, a happy hour), try this. Pick someone to talk to, and give them your full attention. Be an awesome listener. Listen to what they have to say, and ask thoughtful questions that give them the chance to tell you more.
You can see the change in someone’s demeanor as they open up about a topic they care about. This is also a quick way to learn that absolutely everyone you meet has something new to teach you.
Give people room to share more of their story with you, and you’ll both be better for it.
4. Build Your Self-Knowledge
There are so-and-so many billion people on Earth, and every one of them
knows that the first season of Spongebob Squarepants changed television forever is unique.
There are certainly common themes. Most of us want pretty similar things out of life. We want some degree of material comfort, we want to be healthy, and we want to enjoy ourselves along the way.
But that doesn’t mean we can all take the exact same path to get those things. You are your own unique, special basket of:
- Strengths and weaknesses
- Personality traits
- Insecurities and fears
- Personal preferences
- History and damage
- Skills and talents
- “Controversial” political opinions
Get to know yourself better by asking yourself questions about these and other traits. Personal growth is always easier when we approach it from reality. Work with who you are, not who you wish you were.
When you understand yourself well, the things you do make more sense. It’s easier to see why something may not have worked for you. It’s also a lot easier to plan ahead and have a much higher chance of succeeding in all the things that make life feel so hard.
5. Use Questions to Advocate for Yourself
Questions are a key to strong, healthy boundaries and to advocating for yourself.
The cards you’re dealt are rarely the only ones in the deck. Use questions to challenge that hand.
When you really want something but it feels out of reach, just ask for it. The worst they can say is no.
If you don’t like the deal someone is offering you, it’s okay to ask for more.
If it feels like someone (or something) is trying to take more out of you than you’re willing to give, they probably are. Use questions to push back and say no.
You are your own person. Your needs, wants, and preferences are valid and deserve to be recognized. It’s always okay to ask questions to advocate for yourself. The answer won’t always be the one you wanted, but you never know until you ask.
Go Be Curious, You Wonderful Wonderer!
There you have it. Everything you need to start going deeper with your questions, and exploring your world as a curious observer.
Are you a natural questioner like me, or a little more reluctant? What are you going to try next to start asking great questions more often? Share below!
Or better yet, ask a question below…