Asking Powerful Questions

One of the best ways you can get ahead in your career (and your life) is by asking powerful questions.  So what is a powerful question? Quite simply it is a question that doesn't give the person you direct it to the opportunity for a one word answer.

Think of where you might apply this technique.  In networking, it is a no brainer. How frustrating is it to ask someone: "Are you planning any trips in the next year?" and get the answer - "no".  Ugh.  What a conversation killer!

So here is the easy rule of thumb for asking powerful questions whether you are in a meeting, at a networking event or any other situation where you want to learn more and want to impress those around you.  Quite simply, be sure to ask "What" or "How" questions.

Think about this for a minute.  It is very difficult to provide one work answers to "What or How" questions.  Another good technique is to ask: "Can you tell me more about that?".  Usually I suggest avoiding the word "can" but in this case it just seems to sound better than "Will you tell me more about that?".

Notice that the idea here is to get the other person to open up.  It is a great opportunity not only to become better informed - it also makes the other person feel good because you are honouring them by listening to their answers or story or whatever.

This technique is very powerful in meetings.  "What caused us to come to that decision?" is so much more likely to inspire a thoughtful response than, "Why did we do that?".  This brings up another key point.  "Why?"

For some reason, when we ask people "why?" there is a much higher probability of the other parties getting defensive.  "Why did you do that?" almost invites confrontation and argument in a way that "What caused you to take that path?" never will.  As a consequence, I try never to use "why" in my questioning and always focus on the "what and how" approach.

Yes - this seems like a small point but try it - at work, at home, with friends and see if you don't get a much better response than the more typical "why?".

Powerful questions will really cause you to be noticed and respected for your insight - even though you are the one asking for more information!


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