Have you ever been part of a conversation where you were afraid to ask questions because you thought it might make you look stupid? Everyone else seemed to understand the topic and you didn’t but just went nodding along? This often happens. But asking questions is the only way to learn. How are you going to move forward and improve your skills or knowledge or understanding without asking questions? Asking questions is essential. But it is also important to ask the right kind of questions. How can you know what questions to ask?
How it Helps to Know What Questions to Ask
Why is it important to ask the right kind of questions if you want to learn? Imagine starting a new job without asked anything about it at all. Would you be able to do a good job? You need to find out what to do and how to do it. You need answers to learn and improve. And the only way to get them is by asking. Asking the right questions will improve your chances of being successful.
Different Kinds of Questions Have Different Outcomes
Obviously, there are different kinds of questions. I am not talking about open versus closed questions. I am refering to questions that actually help you improve and those that do not. For example, you can ask yourself “Why is this not working for me?” Or you can ask “How can I make this work for me?”
Do you see the difference? The first question focuses on the negative. It makes you a victim. And the answers will not tell you what to change or how to improve. They will only stress what is not going well. The second question is positive. The answers to the second question will help you identify what to do and how to do it to be succesful. Of course, you must really be willing to find a solution if you ask this question. But simply asking it in itself will improve you chances of success.
When a Problem Occurs
Asking the right kind of question is also important when a problem occurs. Imagine something goes wrong at work, something gets messed up. Colleagues are annoyed. Very often, people will angrily ask “Who did this?”, “Who caused this problem?”, “What have you done?”. The only result may be that they find someone to blame. Energy gets put into finding the guilty party and maybe a fight will follow about who is to blame. But does that solve the problem?
Though it may be necessary to identify the cause of an issue, it is more important to get it fixed. That should be the first priority. So calm down, and use your collective energy differently. Ask “How do we solve this problem?” or “What can we do to fix this?” After solving the issue, you can still find out the root cause, of course. But remember to ask a positive question. “What caused this problem and how can we prevent it for happening again?” That will not just help you identify the problem but also help you prevent it from occuring again.
Active Listening is Needed to Learn
Effective communication requires active listening. If you want to learn, you must listen actively. What does that mean? It means to ask questions and then really listen to what the other person has to say. This will improve your relationship with the other person – both in your private and professional life. But it will also help you gain a lot of knowledge and learn from the other person’s experience.
Active listening is extremely powerful. You can learn from all of a person’s knowledge simply by listening. Learn to ask open-ended questions that encourage them to share even more of their experience and knowledge. Practice it in your personal life. For a while, make it your goal to listen more than you talk. Only ask instead of talk and allow others to tell you about themselves. Nod along, keep eye contact, make affirmative sounds, do not interrupt. And continue with follow-up questions after they finished answering.
After that, think about how much you just learned about the other person. Along the way, you probably made them feel better about themselves too. Everyone needs attention and feels good when they get it. Be sure to be honest about it though. People can see and feel it if you are not sincere.
What Questions to Ask if You Want to Learn
Focus on Solutions
So, to learn you need to know what questions to ask. Start by asking yourself the right kind of questions. And make sure to ask the positive questions I mentioned before. Be focused on solutions instead of problems. Most of the time, this means asking How-questions. For example, “How can I achieve my goal?” or “How can I improve this skill?” You could look at the examples of other people and ask “How did they become succesful?” Try to avoid the negative kind of questions that make you feel like a victim. Very often, these will by start with Why, like “Why is this happening to me?” or “Why am I failing again?”
Ask the Right People
You can only learn from people who know more than you do, who have gone a certain path before or who have skills you do not have yet. So you need to ask the right people. To find the right people you must ask yourself what you want to achieve. What is it you want to find out? What answers are you looking for? And what do you want to achieve. Next, identify the people that will have the answers and then start asking.
Use Open-Ended Questions
Once you know who you want to talk to, it is still important to ask the right questions. That means asking open-ended questions. As mentioned before, many people love talking about themselves. If you ask them open-ended questions, you allow them to share as much as possible. Examples of questions to ask are “How did you achieve this?” or “What has helped you be successful?”
Questions to Ask – In a Nutshell
Asking the right questions is essential for learning. But it will also greatly benefit you in your personal and professional life. There are a few important aspects to remember. First of all, asking questions only helps if you are an active listener. Second, what kind of questions you ask yourself is essential. Focus on solutions, ask the right kind of people and use open-ended questions. That way, you will get the answers that will help you achieve your goals.
Asking questions is essential in learning. But it is just one of several important learning techniques. Would you like to learn more effectively? Check out these steps to learn faster and smarter. Do you want to learn more online? Then click right here to find out how to do it best.