How Do Questions Work?
Why do I find good questions so powerful and fascinating? Makes sense to start a blog about questions with a question, right? It’s because of what just happened in your brain when you read those first two sentences. You may not realize it consciously, but your subconscious automatically engages to try to answer those questions. You can’t help it. So your brain tried, but could not answer the first question, since you don’t know me and why I find anything fascinating.
To the second question, you probably answered subconsciously Yes, because you had all the information you needed to answer. So the first question is still a bit of a puzzle for you, maybe makes you even a little uneasy, but hopefully makes you want to read further. The second question is maybe a bit more satisfying because you could answer it, but already your subconscious has detected a pattern and is beginning to surmise what this blog post is about. Questionology.
So if you’re still reading, those first two questions were very good questions, weren’t they? They engaged you, got you thinking, maybe made you curious and wanting to know more. That’s the power of good questions and part of why I find good questions so fascinating.
An Explosive Story In Questions
Let me tell you a story. I have done a lot of public speaking and teaching in my career in the areas of decision-making and technology. I noticed very early on, when I was giving a seminar to a corporate group of twenty, that when i just spoke in declarative sentences, their eyes glazed over. A good public speaker is always checking to see if their audience is still tuned in. However, if I started asking questions, they perked up and paid attention. I wondered why that was? Then I began to realize that we cannot resist or tune out questions, can we? Whether we like or not, when faced with a question, our subconscious will automatically engage to try to answer. You and I have no conscious control over this response, do we?
Now I owe you the rest of the story. The group I was addressing was in the business of manufacturing gunpowder. So when one of my questions to them was, ‘What qualifications do you need to work here?”
A young woman answered, “You need to be able to run fast.”
Now I was getting curious and asked the all-important follow up question.as in, “Why? Why do you need to be able to run fast?”
She replied, “Because we have lots of explosions in the plant and you need to be able to get out of the way, fast.” True story. Often the answers you get back from your questions are unexpected, aren’t they?
In fact, the second most powerful thing you can do in communicating in addition to asking good questions, is to tell stories. We love stories, don’t we? Why is that? I think it’s either built-in to our human nature or something we learn as kids or maybe both. But that’s a subject for another blog. Back to questions.
When I began to come to grips with the power of questions, I did a little experiment. In one of my seminars. I talked about the power of questions to solve problems. But for 30 minutes of my presentation on this topic, I phrased every sentence in the form of question. What do you think happened? Did their heads explode? No, but something magical happened. They got the point. How often does that happen?
Collecting Great Questions
So over the last twenty years, as part of my fascination with questions, I have been collecting good and great questions whenever I heard or read them. Kinda crazy, right? What I began to find is that some questions not only engaged your mind, but also had the power to redirect your actions and in many cases, change your life.
As an aside, I will mention that I became so enamored with the power of good questions, that I have made a study of them. In fact, years ago, I coined the term Questionology in 2009. If you enjoy and benefit from the power of these questions, you will be able to learn more, see and discuss good questions in my new blog at Questionology.com (coming soon). Bits and pieces of helpful things have be written about good questions, but I’d like to see it pulled together in one cohesive place. That’s one of my definitions of success. I envision that some day, the art and science of questions will be taught in school, although Socrates may have beat me to it by a few years. Can you picture a day when you’ll be able able to get a degree in Questionology? I can. Let’s get started.
First Big Question
Here’s your first potentially life-changing question:
What’s your definition of success?
The keyword here is your. It’s personal to you. You may want to think about it for a little, but I’ll tweak your thinking a bit first. Success can be small like achieving the goals in a project you’re responsible for. Or bigger, at the end of your life, how would you define success? Making a lot of money, raising a great family, inspiring or helping others? Based on your answer, would you change what you are doing now, today or tomorrow? Is what you spend your time on contributing to your definition of success? Good questions, right? The kinds of questions that have the power to create change. Would you agree?
If you would like to share your answers to these questions, please leave a comment. Otherwise, stay tuned for more important and powerful questions here and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Questionology
P.S. My new techno-thriller, NOT SO DEAD, is now available on Amazon. It asks the questions, What if you could achieve immortality digitally? And because it’s a thriller, What could go wrong? Read more about it and sign up for our mailing list Better yet, buy a copy?