Why We Struggle To Ask Questions And How To Ask Great Questions
It is one of the very basic of communication: asking a question, receiving an answer and starting a conversation. But what if you are asking the wrong question in the first place? How is this conversation going to turn?
Today I wonder why we struggle to ask questions. Asking for help. Questioning the question. Asking yourself the right question. Asking questions is something we learn and it’s not that simple.
Have you ever felt stuck in a project or lost in doing something that doesn’t makes any sense? Or have you ever felt that the team was not connected and everyone in the project starts to run around like headless chickens? Or have you ever got bored? Are you familiar with procrastination? Most likely yes?
Well, my analysis of this is that usually to solve our problems, when you know the right question to ask yourself or others, it makes things much easier to navigate. So why are we struggling to ask questions?
“Aller droit dans le mur”
It’s a French saying that means “heading straight for the wall”… When you are trying to drive your car but you loose the control of it and it’s heading to the wall. Replace the car by “your life”, “a project” or “your relationship”… whatever is getting out of control at the moment.
And so, to continue on my methaphor, what could be the best way to stop heading to the wall? The safest option is probably to hit the brakes and turn to avoid hitting the wall.
When I ask the right question, this is the feeling I have. It is easy to get lost in your own thoughts. It’s even worse when you work in a team because it’s harder to have everyone aligned and going toward the same goals.
Note: if you study business intelligence and systems, you will understand that in an organisation it is nearly impossible to have all the different players to look in the same direction. One will want to increase the budget of R&D to improve the quality of the product, while another will try to control the costs and reduce them. It is a lot of compromises and could be endless discussions if everyone just stick to their personal interests.
And that is what Managers are usually doing: they ask questions and start conversations with the different stakeholders in their team to coordinate and grow.
So if I am stuck and I see I am running into a wall, I start asking questions before it is too late:
- Where are we going? What is the direction?
- Is everyone aware that we are going in that direction? (it’s a mistake to think that everyone in the company knows what are the goals and where we are heading to)
- What do you see that other people don’t?
- Who needs help the most if we change direction?
- What is broken and needs more attention?
- What are the risks if we fail? What could be the benefits of a partial success? etc.
The art of asking the right questions: how to ask good questions?
I have been a host for Creators in Saigon podcast for a year. And one thing I learned is that if you are really interested in your guest, you will ask good questions.
So this is just one way to answer this question and I am no expert in “asking questions”. I didn’t study journalism or anything related..
How to apply that to your life and your different projects?
I was talking about procrastination at the beginning of the article. And boredom. This is a great “signal” that you are less interested in what you are doing. And if you are less interested, it’s normal that this project is heading to the wall; the least attention to gave it the more likely it’s going in the wrong direction.
Is it a good or bad thing? This is a question you might wanna answer yourself. For some projects, I’ve felt so much better after leaving them… When you see procrastination, you have a chance to see that you are not interested and you can make a decision.
The other tips is to try asking “open questions”.
If you ask yourself “is it a good or a bad thing” you’ll get a partial answer. You will need more questions starting with “how”, “why”, “what”, etc.
Questions I love asking:
- If this isn’t working, how can we make it happen? I love asking the “how can we make it happen” because it automatically puts you into a positive mode. You are thinking of solutions to a problem.
- What makes you think we are going in the wrong direction? Interrogate the reasons behind someone’s thoughts. A perception is always subjective. If you want real information, get to the subjective side of the information. Someone’s feelings are going to tell you more than if you ask him to share his knowledge. A perception cannot be right or wrong; it’s our own (and it can change). It’s the most insighful thing to collect if you want answers.
- What do you need help with to succeed and who can help you? Asking for help is hard. It’s a battle with your own ego. And so, asking this question could ease the process a little bit. The truth is, people around you cannot wait to help you… don’t you think it just depends on how you ask them and who you ask for help?
The One question I avoid asking myself
Like any tool, questions could be used to bring positive changes to your life. But they could also have the power to drag you into the deepest negative areas of your own mind… if you ask yourself the “wrong” questions, it’s possible that you accelerate instead of hitting the brakes and really hit the wall…
I avoid to ask: what other people think of me.
If you are trapped into this rabbit hole of questions about “what others think of yourself” or questions like “will they like it or not”, etc. You have been trapped by your own mind.
Fear of being disliked is real, fear of rejection is real, fear of not be good enough too, etc.. And it’s legitimate to fear or to wonder what others think about ourselves.
And if you ever tried to answer these type of questions, the answers are usually scary: you’ll be ridiculous, people will laugh at you, you’re not worth it, I will never be able to make it again, I will die alone, etc. etc.
So how to avoid to go down and freeze all your projects and attempts. How to avoid this type of questions in the first place?
I simply refuse to believe it is about me. What ever you do, this is not about me. This blog is not about me, it’s about anwering questions entrepreneurs have. My relationship is not about me, it’s about building a life we dearm of together. My projects I work on it’s about the people helped and the problems we are solving.
I live in Saigon and I always have this image of Saigon traffic with all these motorbikes like a fish shore, always moving. If there is space, someone is taking it. If you don’t take it. But what if you take that space… are you helping the crowd to move faster or blocking someone else from taking this space?
But you don’t have the time to answer that question or to apologize to anyone from taking this space because as the traffic is moving, other spaces have apeared and other people are occupying the space.
When we do things, I remind myself that it’s constantly moving and that the environment around me is like the Saigon traffic, it will adapt and exist as a whole. It will create empty spaces for people as long as I occupy mine.
- If you are curious about this thing or interested in that person, questions will come more naturally. What about hanging out with these people more often and working on interesting projects more?
- If you start seeing signs of disorganization, procrastination or strong emotions into the other person you work with or you are with, it is a good time to start asking questions. Remember, feelings cannot be right or wrong. So ask them how they feel and how they think.
- It’s about the problem you are solving and about the people you help. It’s too easy to fall into our own trap and start thinking it’s about us… Remember that every action you do in your day, for yourself or for others have a purpose: What is the purpose of your action?
Thank you for reading until the end!
Every morning, after my meditation 🧘🏽and my breakfast ☕️, I sit at my desk for one hour and write answers to my own questions, as an entrepreneur ✍️. Then I publish it on this blog, hoping to help other entrepreneurs to find answers to their questions too. And this, no matter your “level”.
To participate, ask me questions on social medias @nicolasthanhg (click on the icons below). I may answer directly or write an article about it.
Now, you can also go back to the blog page and search for articles related to your scope of interest. 🔍
Have a good day,