ABCs of Positivity: Q Is for Questions

Questions – From the earliest days, my dad drummed into me the concept: “If you don’t know, ask.” Consequently, I have been a consummate lifelong question-asker. We’ll explore which questions to ask, which questions to answer, and which questions to ignore altogether.

ABCs of Positivity: Q Is for Questions

From the time I was a little girl, my father used to tell me, “If you don’t know, ask!” To his mind, there was never an excuse for not knowing something because there was no shame in asking – for information, knowledge, instructions.

My dad encouraged me to speak up and ask not just for myself, but when I knew others wanted information and were too shy or afraid to ask for themselves. I would do this in classrooms from grade school to university to professional settings (do so to this day, as a matter of fact). I’d know the answer to the question I was asking, but could see that others needed clarification and either didn’t have the courage or words to ask – so I asked for them. It’s funny how often the teacher/presenter would turn and speak directly to me, very slowly, like I was an idiot for asking the question. They seldom realized that I was asking for others – or that there was even a need for them to clarify in the first place.

Always, always, always I would prefer someone tell me they don’t know the answer to the question than (a) lie, (b) pretend they do know, (c) ignore me, (d) not be interested enough to care, or (e) shut me down because my question bothers them in some way.

The question-asking that began with my dad’s insistence carried over into all parts of my life. As I mentioned in my post about education, “have you ever wondered…?” became something of a mantra for me. The specific question of “I wonder…?” morphed into my very first book, titled 1,001 Real-Life Questions for Women. It started by my wondering, at age 33, what other woman was experiencing the weird situation of having grey hair and zits at the same time … and led to my wondering at least 1,000 other things about women’s experiences. Turns out many of them are universal.

I think asking questions is an indicator of innate curiosity about life and the world around us. It means we care to know more, that we’re dissatisfied with surface answers. If you’re a parent, you may remember (or be experiencing right this moment) the continual refrain of “But why?” Maintaining that curiosity of the child propels us to continue asking questions well into adulthood.

Becoming a good question-asker has a lot of benefits. These include:

(1) Expanding your knowledge and learning something new. This can be beneficial both personally and professionally, regardless of your age, education level, or career.

(2) Finding answers is personally satisfying. Putting things together will sate the part of your brain that is looking for that answer or missing piece to the puzzle.

(3) You’ll remember the information pertaining to questions you sought to answer. My sister used to say she found herself re-asking a question when the answer either wasn’t what she’d expected or didn’t sound right to her. She remembered it when it satisfied her curiosity.

(4) The answers to questions will help you resolve problems or lead you to the steps to a solution.

(5) Asking questions of people will help you get to know them better, become a better listener, and be perceived as a more interesting person.

The kinds of questions you ask will depend a great deal on the situation.

  • Closed (yes or no) questions will give you limited answers and information.
  • Open questions will allow a lot more latitude in the answers – but you don’t necessarily want to use them in a courtroom setting.
  • Probing questions are the ones that lead to further inspection. “What is your favorite color?” is straight-ahead. “Why is that your favorite color?” is another question altogether.
  • Leading questions include the answer in the question. “You’re looking for more money, aren’t you?” These are often used by TV reporters who seem to want their interviewees to answer in a particular way.
  • Loaded questions have a twist or put the person in an uncomfortable position. They may seem simple on the surface, but if answered too quickly or without enough thought could leave the person needing to do some explaining.
  • Funnel questions are a series of questions that might start simply and get more complex, or vice-versa. “Do you want to go out for dinner?” “What kind of food do you want to eat?” “Which restaurant should we visit?”
  • Recall questions ask the person to do just that – remember something and tell you the story.
  • Process questions are about how to do something.
  • Rhetorical questions are usually asked to make a point – the asker does not expect an answer.

Yes, you might be perceived as a nuisance if you ask too many questions – in class, for example. You might become labeled a trouble-maker at work if you question the status quo or wonder why “because we’ve always done it that way” is a good enough reason for doing anything. I encourage you to be brave enough to continue asking until you receive an answer that makes sense to you.

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ABCs of Positivity   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Laura Orsini is an author, speaker, consultant, publisher, and creator of Fairy Positive, an antidote to the worries of the world. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

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