As children in school we are constantly quizzed, and required to give answers to the questions that we are asked. The whole point of the public schooling system seems to be for us to develop the ability to answer questions.
In fact, many kids are taught that if you can’t provide the correct answer you will never get very far in life.
It is the belief that it is the answers we have, not the questions we ask, that shows our intelligence. But that couldn’t be further from the truth!
I used to feel the same way though. I had bought into the general mindset that I was taught in school. Ever since I was little I was under the impression that a person who was smart was the person that was able to give the best answer.
It wasn’t until I made it to college that I changed my mindset on the importance of questions and answers.
I had a professor that completely challenged my point of view, the one that was developed by my schooling up to that point. He constantly asked questions, and even encouraged us to ask questions in return.
If you have been to college you may know that there aren’t a whole lot of professors that encourage you to question their teaching.
So why did he?
He had the belief that it was the questions we asked, not the answers we gave, that showed our intelligence. And that trough asking questions, not giving answers, we could learn and grow the most.
At first I thought he was crazy. But then I started to see things that backed up his point of view everywhere I looked.
I heard successful people preach about the importance of questions. I saw quotes about it everywhere. I even noticed the same idea in books and in the Bible.
Over the last few years I have learned 3 important principles about the art of asking questions.
1. Asking questions encourages learning.
The public school system tries to tell us that learning happens from listening to lectures, and that we show how much we learn by answering questions in the form of quizzes and tests. However, real learning doesn’t always happen this way.
There is an old Chinese proverb that says:
“He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.”
When we ask questions we open up an opportunity to learn something new. We get to see a new point of view, and a new solution we may not have come up with ourselves.
We are not born with all the answers. We must ask questions about things that we do not know, that way we can learn and grow.
Just as the proverb teaches, asking a question allows us to move from being a “fool” – or someone who has no knowledge about something – to someone who has knowledge.
2. Asking questions requires us to see others point of view.
One of the best things that results from asking questions is that it requires us to see other peoples point of view.
We all have uniquenesses and the experiences we have had give us a new way to view situations. When we ask questions we get to see the point of view of others in their answer. Many times this allows us to see the question, and answer, in a way that we could have never seen it before.
By opening ourselves up to learn from others point of view, we have the opportunity to learn from them and their experiences. Whether it is from their successes, or many times from their hardships and failures, we can learn a lesson without having to live those scenarios for ourselves.
We can cut years off our learning by learning from the experiences of others – and the key to learning from their experience is to ask them good questions!
3. Asking questions is a sign of strength.
Many of us grow up being terrified to ask questions. In fact, many kids will avoid asking questions out of fear that they will look stupid to their friends and classmates.
This mindset comes from the idea that asking questions shows weakness. The bad news is that this mindset flows over into our adult lives as well.
The good news is that this idea is a lie!
Peter Drucker says:
“My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.”
If you are familiar with the work of Peter Drucker I believe you would agree he is a smart and successful. He is not someone that many would consider weak. He has mastered the art of using questions to help him increase his learning.
We can do the exact same. It’s time to kill the belief that asking questions shows weakness!
Some More Quotes About Questions
- Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers. – Voltaire
- The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reasoning for existing. – Albert Einstein
- Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers. – Tony Robbins
- The wise man doesn’t give the right answers, he poses the right questions. – Claude Levi-Strauss
- If one has answers to all the questions – that is the proof that God is not with him. – Pope Francis
- To solve any problem, here are three questions to ask yourself: First, what could I do? Second, what could I read? Third, who could I ask? – Jim Rohn
One of the most important questions I have learned to ask myself is “why” in regards to everything I do. I have found that asking “why” leads me to make better decisions. I wrote about that here.
No matter who we are asking questions to, whether it is to ourselves or to others, we need to embrace the notion that asking questions is ok. In fact, it is required.
It is a sign of strength!
Try to make it a habit to ask more questions, and give less answers. Doing so will help you to show your intelligence, and get in some great conversations where you can learn from others.
Just remember – everyone is superior to you in some way. Asking them questions lets you lean from them, and grow to become a stronger and smarter person!