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 began to grasp the powerful impact of asking great questions.
In every classroom and workplace around the world, the most intelligent people aren’t the ones with all the answers. Instead, 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 for personal growth, relationships, self-confidence, and much more.
Read on to see what makes great questions such a powerful tool and how best to harness them.
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 a new perspective
- Set and enforce personal boundaries
- Earn the respect of those around you
- Bring the joy of a curious 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, exploring, and deepening your understanding of the world around you.
People who ask great questions come off as more intelligent, confident, empathetic, and self-respecting than those who don’t. This effect 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 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 “should know already,” even if you’re the only one asking. It’s always okay to ask questions.
Every day holds 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
Be an Insatiable Learner
Great questions have always been an essential tool in the classroom. They are a gift that each generation uses to pass its knowledge on to the next. But it shouldn’t end there. School is only the beginning of our education.
We don’t go to school only 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 entirely 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 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, but you will also become a better student of your world and have fun doing it. So keep asking questions, and rediscover how amazing the world around you is every day.
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 run and blend. But would they, though? I mean, they would. But would they, though? Is it something you actually know, or something you do because your parents did it, because their parents did it?
Challenging assumptions (both your own and those handed down to you) highlights new possibilities. It creates new opportunities to learn and uncover new ways of thinking.
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.
It turns out to be remarkably easy to give this gift 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 a fantastic 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 everyone you meet has something new to teach you.
Give people room to share more of their stories with you, and you’ll both be better for it.
Build Your Self-Knowledge
There are so many billion people on Earth, and each one is unique.
There are certainly common themes. Most of us want pretty similar things out of life. We want some degree of material comfort, to be healthy, and to enjoy ourselves along the way.
But that doesn’t mean we can all take the 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 everything that makes life feel so hard.
Use Questions to Advocate for Yourself
Questions are a key to firm, healthy boundaries and advocating for yourself.
The cards life deals you are rarely the only ones in the deck. So use questions to challenge that hand.
When you want something that feels out of reach, try asking for it. The worst someone else can say is no.
If you don’t like the deal someone offers 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. Of course, 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 will you try next to start asking great questions more often? Only time (and a few more questions) will tell.