How To Ask Questions To Get Answers

The ability to ask questions is a very useful skill. A relevant question for a teacher at a university will help to gain knowledge, a timely question asked to a manager can lead to career growth, a correctly formulated question to a doctor will help improve health. It is useful to ask questions to oneself – to sort out one’s desires and feelings. Together with TheWhyCulture , a service of questions and answers for curious people, we have prepared instructions on how to ask questions correctly. 


Formulate the question briefly


When the question fits in one sentence, the interlocutor will not have any extra hints. In addition, short questions are usually more understandable, and they also make the essence of the problem clearer for the author of the question. When formulating a question, try to concentrate the meaning in a short sentence and start with a question word.


Consider context

Questions can be open and closed: depending on the goal or situation, you can choose the first or second type. Open questions (for example, “How to cook a Japanese omelet?” ) Is appropriate to ask if you need a detailed answer. And closed ones (like “Who is stronger: a whale or a bear?” ) – when you need to find out the position of the interlocutor or check some assumption. In addition, questions can be divergent and convergent. Converged people, as a rule, do not have a definite answer and most often begin with “Why …”, “What are the reasons …” and “Why …” (for example, “Why do people divide animals into those whom it is a pity to kill, and those who are not very ? “) They are worth asking if you want to explain the situation. And divergent ones work to predict the future – for this a conditional situation is described.


Be curious. Like children!

Young children are restless: according to psychologist Paul Harris, in a period of three to five years a child asks about 40 thousand questions. Themes change during this time: from the simplest, children move on to something more serious. At the same time, they try to get to the bottom of the essence. Sometimes the endless questions from the series “Why is the sky blue?” , “Why is snow white?” , “Why does the Earth not fall?” Parents cannot find suitable answers. And at some point, the questions become more complex and even philosophical (for example, “What is death?” Or “What is moral?” ). Such childish curiosity should not be suppressed, but developed and encouraged.


Be consistent

If you build the correct sequence of questions, you can get to the bottom of things. This idea is at the core of the five-why technique of Japanese car mogul Sakichi Toyoda. He believed that for five questions you can find out the root cause of any problem, and eventually eliminate it. For example, the sequence may be: “Why does the car not start?” (“The engine does not work”) => “Why the engine does not work?” (“The battery is dead”) => “Why is the battery dead?” (“Problem with the generator” ) => “Why did the generator have a problem?” (“The belt of the generator never changed”) => “Why did the belt of the generator never change?” (“The machine did not pass the technical inspection when it was needed”).

By virtue of leading questions, the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates also believed. He used them to better understand the thoughts of another person. His method of maintaining discussion is based on three types of questions. The starter should generate discussion (for example, “Climate change – a myth?” ). This should be followed by guiding questions that will deepen and complement the main question ( “What are the main scientific evidence of global warming?” ), And the final ones – to help summarize the discussion ( “What is the reason for carbon dioxide entering the Earth’s atmosphere?”) To maintain an active discussion, Socrates proposed to think over fundamental questions in advance, carefully monitor the answers and periodically summarize all that was said – all this, according to the philosopher, should allow the participants in the conversation to independently discover new knowledge.


Try to hear the person you are talking to.

In addition to the correct wording of the question, it is important to hear the interlocutor. One of the most famous psychological experiments – Asha’s experiment – confirms that people are highly dependent on the opinion of the group and rarely oppose it, even if it contradicts common sense. Therefore, if you addressed a question to a large audience, keep in mind that, even if the majority agreed, this answer cannot be taken as the most truthful. Be prepared to accept not the most popular point of view.


Do not ask slogan questions

If you want to speak out on a topic, do not clothe your opinion in a question. Firstly, usually such questions do not require an answer, and secondly, even if they answer you, you most likely will not agree with the interlocutor. For example, if you see a question like “Why was my cat not given the first prize at the show?” Because of the bribed jury? ”, It is obvious that its author does not want to hear the position of other people, but simply manifests his opinion. 


Explore famous questionnaires 

There are a lot of well-known questionnaires – and they are suitable for different situations. For example, the Marcel Proust questionnaire , which Vladimir Pozner uses in an interview, helps to reveal the interlocutor from a new perspective. This list includes questions like “What is your most characteristic trait?”, “Who are your favorite characters in real life?” And “Why are you disgusted?”

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