The Power of Questions
Posted by Todd Smith
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Kindra Hall, a fellow blogger and beautiful writer, recently shared a story about her first visit to the National Speakers Association. Every day for three years, she drove by their offices thinking about how to present herself. What would she say? How would she say it? Finally building up the courage to go inside, she decided to just ask questions.
Introduced to a representative from the association, she indicated she wanted to be “a sponge” and learn as much as she could about improving her speaking ability.
The lady responded and said, “So many people come into an organization like this with the goal to impress. They memorize their resumé and talk about why they are unlike anything anyone has seen. Honestly, those folks never make it very far. While it is good to be confident, the true measure of this experience is not how impressive you are coming in; it’s how much you can learn while you are here. If your goal is to soak up what you can from others to become better, that is impressive. And the members of this association will help in whatever way they can to make sure you get the information you seek.”
This story reminded me of another little thing that matters: the importance of asking questions. Most people feel the need to impress you with what they know. They feel the need to explain how good they are at what they do. Or worse yet, they pitch you on something, all without asking one question.
I wonder how much more successful we would be if we focused our time on asking good questions, rather than thinking about what we want to say. Think about it.
Asking questions accomplishes many things. Here are seven quick points that come to mind:
1. You Show an Interest. The relationship-building process is built by FIRST showing an interest in others. When you show an interest in others and the things that are important to them, they will show an interest in you and the things important to you.
2. You Demonstrate Your Desire to Learn. This alone will increase people’s respect for you. In a world of know-it-alls and people who could care less about gaining knowledge, you will stand out from the crowd by being someone who has the desire to learn.
3. People Will Want to Help You. Most people find great fulfillment in helping people who genuinely want to learn. I love helping people if I have the knowledge and experience that can benefit them. How about you?
4. You Will Identify Needs and Desires. By asking good questions, you can determine if what you have to offer is something the other person really needs. No one likes to be pitched and they especially don’t want to be pitched on something they don’t want or need. If you are in sales, you would be wise to spend more time thinking about the questions you want to ask, rather than excessive details about your sales presentation.
5. You Are Showing Respect. When you ask people questions, you are recognizing their value and importance. Everyone wants to feel like they have something worthwhile to contribute. As I pointed out in To Earn Respect You Must Show Respect, when you show respect to others, they will show respect to you.
6. Help You Solve Problems. One of the best ways to solve problems and make wise decisions is to ask good questions.
7. To Explore Deeper. The first words that people share are generally just the “tip of the iceberg.” They represent the surface of their thoughts, rather than the deep meaning behind those thoughts. Asking questions is the best way to find out what people really mean. When you take the time to find out what people really mean, they will be instinctively drawn to you.
So, being honest with yourself, how would you rank yourself on a scale of 1-10 on this subject? Are you a person who asks questions? Do you find yourself talking more than listening? Is this a subject you need to work on?
Over the next 24 hours, will you agree to focus on asking questions? Ask your spouse questions about his or her interests; ask your children questions about their school projects; ask questions of your co-workers; seek someone’s insight about a decision you need to make. Will you simply spend more time asking questions rather than talking for just the next 24 hours?
This is an area where I can really improve. Let’s accept this challenge together.
Asking good questions is a great way to learn. It’s an art we can all improve upon.
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