Research shows that parents are bombarded with upwards of 100 questions a day. That’s four questions an hour; or eight when you consider we’re asleep for half the day.
Our inquisitiveness is said to peak at the age of four at which point one study found we ask an incredible 390 questions per day – averaging one every 1:56 minutes of our waking day!
The tipping point
But then we go to school, where we are taught and our knowledge is tested and rewarded with a grade. The education system rewards us for knowing the answers, not for asking the questions.
And this pattern continues when we enter the workforce. From the job interview to colleagues and clients coming to us for guidance and advice. We get recognised, get promoted, or get given more opportunities based on knowing the answers, not for asking the questions.
And so we stop.
We stop asking because we either believe we know the answer or believe, as a leader, we should know the answer.
Perhaps we’re not prepared for, or interested in the answer.
In many cases, we don’t want to appear weak, naive or stupid, or rude and argumentative.
Maybe we fear judgement, failure and ridicule.
Some believe questions can cause conflict and so shy away from them, for fear of ‘rocking the boat’.
Others don’t want to slow things down for other people.
What happens when we stop asking questions?
Whatever the reason, when we stop asking, we stop moving forward.
We stop innovating.
We stop learning, understanding and growing.
We stop connecting with the world and the people around us.
Questions fuel our discovery and enhance our performance and productivity.
Questions unearth possibilities and lead to the exchange of ideas.
Questions help avoid misunderstandings.
Questions develop empathy and build trust.
And, importantly, questions unlock opportunities for connection with others.
How can I ask better questions?
That’s a very good question!
Start by studying the experts. Kids. Talk show hosts. Journalists. These are the question masters, so observe and learn from them.
Consider why you want to ask – what’s the purpose? What do you want to get from the answer?
Then establish which type of question is best. Open or closed? Leading or loaded? Recall or rhetorical? Process, probing or funnelling?
Above all, channel your inner child. Get curious and simply start asking.