3 Keys to Asking Quality Questions

I’ve been re-reading John G. Miller’s QBQ! The Question Behind the Question. It’s even more amazing each time I pick it up.

It’s full of little truths that are so true they should be obvious, but unfortunately, we easily forget. Sometimes by changing little things, like the way we ask questions, we become more influential leaders and bring better results with a few tweaks to our language. At least that’s been my experience in the work I do coaching executives in organizations.

Here’s an example: Any workday is full of frustrations and challenges, even conflicts. Even though we know better, when someone asks us to do something, before we know it, we respond with “No.” …often followed with the rhetorical questions (often non-vocalized) of “Why can’t management take care of this?” or, “Why is everybody always asking me?” Or, “Why can’t you do it yourself?”

It’s common to automatically respond to requests with negativity and defensiveness. Nobody likes to have more stuff to do. Everyone feels put upon when asked to do more. Heck, many of us just plain hate being told to do anything!

So much of the quality of our days depends upon the quality of our questions. Think of it this way…all we have to do is change our questions and we will change our mood, our conversation and our relationships, AND the way others perceive us at work and at home.

Make better choices in the moment by asking better questions.” ~ John G. Miller, QBQ

Here’s what else the author writes:

“Each day, as we journey into the unexplored wilds of our personal and professional lives, we have countless choices to make. And what are we choosing? Not our next action, but our next thought.

“Choose the wrong thought and we’re off into the emotional goat heads of blame, complaining and procrastination. But the right thoughts lead us to a richer, more fulfilling life and the feelings of pride and accomplishment that come from making productive decisions.”

Isn’t that so true? It doesn’t mean we have to become robots or overly-compliant. We can still question, by using better questions.

Here are a few examples of questions to ask when requests are made of us:

  • What are the objectives we’re seeking to achieve here?
  • What can I do to help make a difference?
  • Are there any other ways to solve this problem?
  • How can I support the team?
  • What else would help get this resolved?

The in-the-moment decision to blurt out blunt and blaming questions leads to wrong results and poor relationships. We always have a choice and one that can make a big difference is how we respond with our questions. Like the author of this small yet powerful book, I believe that our questions themselves will lead us to better results.

It sure will impact the quality of our days.

Here is a guideline for asking better questions:

  1. Begin questions with “What” or “How” (not “Why,” When” or “Who”).
  2. Use the pronoun “I”, not “they,” “them,” “we” or “you”).
  3. Focus on action (not personalities).

What do you think about this? Have you spent any time reflecting on how you can change your questions for the better?

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