Anyone who knows me well knows that I question everything.
Rules. Policies. Why things are the way they are. Why we do things the way we do them. I poke holes. I push back.
“Why?” is possibly my most frequently-used word.
Part of this is born out of a natural curiosity; I love to learn about how things work and understand motivations. I also like to make things better, and to improve a process or system we need to first understand it.
Some people hire me because of the questions I ask. But many people don’t like questions. Some have little tolerance for questions.
If you’re also a questioner perhaps you’ve noticed this. Or perhaps you’re one of the intolerant ones.
I spent a fair amount of time considering why people are so resistant to questions. (I really do question everything.)
One reason people don’t like questions is that they view questions as a waste of time.
They want to get the work done more quickly, or the lesson over with. Questions drag out the process.
It’s time to debunk that myth.
Why Asking Questions is Not A Waste of Time
Mastering the art of asking skillful and effective questions is the foundation for mastery in any endeavor. Taking the time to ask effective questions up front can often save you time and energy on the back end.
Here are some examples from across a range of fields:
Sales: Effective sales is grounded in effective questioning. The right questions will help you discern whether your prospect is your ideal client and what your prospect truly needs. You will avoid wasting time chasing prospects who are a poor fit for your offerings, and you will avoid the pain that comes from being unable to deliver what your prospect wanted.
Negotiation: Negotiation is another form of sales. Asking better questions will give you insight into what the other people really need, so you can create better solutions where everyone wins.
Doctor, Therapist, Healer: How many patients leave a doctor’s office feeling unheard? Even worse, how many leave with an incomplete or wrong diagnosis and path to healing? A practitioner who takes time to ask her patients the right questions, can get past the presenting issue and hone in on the real issue. This allows the practitioner to treat or serve the patient more holistically, and therefore more effectively.
Coach: Asking effective questions is a coach’s job; this helps your client access their wisdom and see what’s in their way. Breakthroughs result from effective questioning. One of the biggest takeaways I had from my coach training was reinforcing that my value lies in the questions I ask my clients.
Consulting: Consulting is not coaching. In consulting, you’re giving advice. But even here, asking skillful questions is necessary to help you give the right advice for the client.
Real Estate Agents: Real estate is really a mix of coaching, consulting, sales, and negotiation, so of course questioning is at the foundation. Asking better questions can help a client articulate with more clarity what she wants. This helps an agent help his client in less time and with less running around. I’ve had clients make offers after only one day of looking, because I asked effective questions that allowed me to qualify them financially and qualify the potential homes.
Design Professionals: The right questions can give your client and you more clarity about what she really wants, so you can hit the mark on your deliverable with fewer revisions and free up time for more projects.
Teamwork and Collaboration: In any collaborative endeavor, asking the right questions up front can help avoid miscommunications that lead to resentment and team discord. Insightful and thoughtful questions are essential to defining the scope of work. It would be a waste of time and resources to focus on the wrong problem or project.
Asking Questions is Essential to Growth
Too many people go through life never questioning what they are doing or why they are doing it. We can easily fall into complacency and habit, as we follow processes that are no longer relevant or not taking us where we really want to go.
Next time you’re hesitant to ask or field a question because you fear wasting time, consider the consequence of not asking the question.