Tag Archives: Question

The wrong question

It’s nice to know the answer to a question.  It’s nice to be asked for an opinion.

Sometimes, in the excitement of being asked a question by someone you want to impress, you can rush to answer it, whether it was the right question or not.  You accept the premise, missing the opportunity to re-frame the question.

By being answered the question is validated, given credibility that it doesn’t necessarily deserve.

If you’re asked an important question, rather than rushing to an answer, take a breath and ask yourself “Is that the right question?”.  If, and only if, you come up with a positive response should you formulate a response.

This approach may not result in the immediate recognition you seek, but it will help build credibility.  In time, you may even be sought out for guidance on whether questions are right, whether you are able to provide an answer or not.

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“Nobody knows”

Sometimes the certainty we’re looking for just doesn’t exist.

We have come to expect absolute answers.  Every question has a definitive answer.  Every search produces results.  We expect to have something solid to work with, something precise.

We find it difficult to accept that sometimes the best answer even the most expert of professionals can provide is “I don’t know”.  They may not be willing to be pushed to guess, or they may realise that suggesting there is more certainty is not fair, sets unrealistic expectations, or lays the foundation for surprises in the future.

In some situations, uncertainty or ambiguity can be exciting, creating suspense, adding to the outcome itself.  In others it can be frustrating, often for the same reasons, but within a different context or frame of reference.

In many cases, time is the catalyst as more information becomes available, or the question itself crystallises.

Patience is the key.  If you can, enjoy the anticipation.  If not, make sure you’re asking the right question, sit tight and, if necessary, work with what you do know.

Question & Answer

Some people like to answer questions very precisely:

Q:  Do you know what the time is?
A:  Yes.

These people will tend to succeed in a world where precision is essential, and where the people who are asking the questions are equally as knowledgeable and precise when formulating their questions.

For the rest of us, we’re likely to be more successful if we enter into a dialogue.  We need to  understand the context and the intent behind the question.  We need to make sure we can provide the required information rather than just answering the question.

This is a skill that develops with practice…  to efficiently and sympathetically probe for the information required to enhance your response.

It’s an investment that is well worth making,  You’ll reap significant benefits both in and out of the office.