Why the Quality of Your Questions Matter

“What should I do?”

Sound familiar?  You probably ask yourself this question a lot. And others probably ask you this question too. 

When I hear this question, I’m always tempted to provide an answer even though I know it's a bad idea because I know it won't help. People rarely act upon the advice that they hear from another person, no matter how trusted that person may be.

Why is this? Why do we ask if we’re only going to ignore the answer?

Well, we don’t plan to ignore the answer. We hope to get a solution we can work with. But we usually end up ignoring the advice and often don’t even realize we’re doing it. 

You see, we humans don’t take to other people’s ideas as readily as we do our own.  We live with this interesting paradox where we want others to give us the answers but disregard them when they do.

You have unanswered questions, and they're keeping you from taking your next step. Any answers you do have are not helpful and are holding you back.  Everything seems to point to keeping you right where you are even though on the inside you can’t stop thinking about doing something different, something new.

So, what should you do?

Well, I'm going to give you the answer even though I know there's a chance you may not follow my advice. But now that you're aware of this paradox we're living in I'm hoping you'll take this advice and test it for yourself. Which, by the way, is exactly what you should do with any advice you receive - test it for yourself.

The first thing you need to know is this – you already have the answers that will move you forward.

You just don’t know how to get to them yet. And this might be hard for you to believe right now, but I have yet to coach anyone who didn't already have the answers they needed to get themselves unstuck and move them forward. I just helped them discover those answers.

You can (and should) look to experts for advice and learn from those who have gone before you. But all of that information is only truly valuable when you use it to form your own answers and create your own best outcomes. And you’re doing this already even if you don’t realize it.

So why do you still have all these open questions and answers that lead you nowhere? This can be a complex problem to solve but there is a simple and essential first step and I'm going to show it to you right now. 

If you want to find the answers that matter and will move you forward the first step is to learn how to ask better questions.

But what does it mean to ask better questions?  Let's look at some examples. 

Do any of these questions sound familiar?

How can I move forward without a plan?

What will people think?

What if I don’t have enough experience?

How can I compete with Jane over there who's been doing this for 10 years already?

What if it takes too long?

All good questions, right?

Well, they are, and they’re not. 

These questions are presented in a way that leads you toward negative answers. And in some cases, these questions aren't even questions at all but are beliefs you hold in our head.

For example, what's underneath the question "what if I don't have enough experience"?

This question can easily become a belief that "I don't have enough experience."  And if you have this as a belief in your head, it will be nearly impossible to come up with another answer that will move your forward. This just becomes a reason to stand still.

In another example, let's look at the question “what will people think?” 

Your answers might be something like this -

People will think my ideas are crazy.

People will say I'm irresponsible.

People will tell me to suck it up because my situation isn't so bad.

If you’re lucky, you'll have a few positive responses in there too, but you'll obsess over all the negative reactions (because that's how our crazy brains work) and they'll keep you from taking your next steps.

If you want better answers and better results, start asking better questions.

How you ask the question matters.

  • Your questions should not have the answer implied within them.
  • They should assume positive intent and capability of you and others.
  • They should be framed in a way that fosters new ideas and positive steps forward.

Let's test this out. How do we replace "what if I don't have enough experience" with a better question? 

The first step is to get rid of "don't" because this immediately assumes something negative about you or your situation. Instead, ask yourself "how can I use my strengths and experience to make progress on my goal?".

This new question assumes something positive right out of the gate - you DO have strengths and experience. And the question you need to answer is how you can put them to use.

This might take a little bit of practice, but you'll quickly get the hang of this as you reframe your questions. Try it out on other people too as a way to practice and see what results you get. How can you ask your kids, employees, or colleagues better questions that lead to more positive results?

If you want more examples and clear steps to asking better questions to get better results I’ve created a short guide for you.

This is a simple but powerful exercise that can free you from the negative questions that hold you back.

Click here to download your free guide and start getting your questions to work for you instead of against you.