Question-asking is an increasingly lost art in an era of constant talk and ‘pushing content’.
But asking the right questions is of primary importance in thriving through conflict, because we can’t work through conflict well until we put ourselves in the shoes of the other.
Four elements make for a powerful question:
1. It comes from a place of genuine curiosity.
Great questions aren’t means to an end – to win an argument, elicit information for negotiation purposes, to create leverage. A great question comes from a place where the asker admits at least the potential of ignorance and is open to the possibility of growth in understanding.
2. It is direct, simple, and usually open-ended.
If I ask a question programmed to get a response or maneuver the one answering into a one-down position, I’ve introduced noise and the potential of defensiveness into the equation. My question’s intent is clear – I desire information and for the one I am asking to have the time, space, and freedom to answer truthfully, without fear of losing.
3. It generates creative thinking and surfaces underlying information.
A question opens a dialogue – it doesn’t win an argument. It shows that I am engaged, poised to grow and develop a relationship, not best a partner in a negotiating. It invites the one answering to be truthful, vulnerable, and trusting. When this happens, previously hidden truths emerge and point the way through the conflict.
4. It encourages self-reflection.
In a real sense, a good question gives me more information about me – it reveals what I value, what I hope for, my strategic choices, and my desired outcome. And it invites the answer to reflect as well. “Yes” or “No” or “You’re right” may have value, but they only scratch the surface of our stories, experiences, and values. Deeper questions deepen relationships and self-understanding.
What’s the best question you’ve been asked recently?
What’s the best question you’ve asked recently?