"The quality of your life is determined by the quality of the questions you ask."
- John Demartini
The funny thing about life is we can often spend some much time searching for the answers, when in actual fact we should be searching for is the question that comes just before the answer.
At the very least, if you don’t get the answer you need, you will probably uncover a next question and be a step closer to the solution.
So how do you become a master of asking great questions?
Fundamentally, there are 2 types of questions, closed-ended and open-ended.
A closed ended question can only be answered with a yes or no.
Where as an open ended question can’t be answered with a yes or no, so it gives you a myriad of options to work towards a solution.
Take a look at the following quote by Rudyard Kipling…
"I keep 6 honest serving men, (they taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When,
And How and Where and Who."
By starting a question with one of the underlined words above you open up a conversation to uncover potentially new information to help you find the answer to a challenge.
What is about the definition. E.g. What happened?
Why is about the motivation. E.g. Why did that happen?
When is about the timing E.g. When did that happen? (NB can only be in the past, present or future)
How is about the mechanics. E.g. How did you do that?
Where is about the location. E.g. Where would you like to be in 5 years?
Who is about those involved. E.g. Who would you like to have as a client?
Now you have a starting point for a great question.
Pick anyone of the above apply it to the thing you are looking for a solution to.
Think about the last time you couldn’t find your keys. What were the questions you were asking yourself? Was it the same question over and over, like “where are my %^&*@* keys?
What if instead you started asking some different questions, like;
· When was the last time I remember having them?
· What was I doing then?
· What was I doing just before/after then?
· What was I thinking about?
· Where had I just come from?
· What was the temperature was I feeling hot or cold?
The idea behind this is that each of these different questions will fire a different part of your brain, inevitably bringing you a different answer, giving you a better chance of getting the final question before the correct answer.
In business you can apply to areas like customer service, sales, marketing, finances, team and so on. For example, if we were to think about marketing;
· If I could clone my ideal customer, what 10 traits would they have in common?
· Where can I find them in the greatest concentration
· When is the best time to get their attention?
· Why should they do business with me instead of my competitors?
· Who is already doing business with my ideal prospects that I could partner with in a win win way?
A word of caution on the How type question.
This type of question if asked too soon in the solution gathering process can stall the progress. If you ask a how question and have no ideas on how to do something, there is a tendency for you brain to just go, “this is too hard, im giving up”. Which kills the process.
Make sure you have gathered enough information through the other 5 open-ended questions, so that by the time you get to the how questions you have all the information you need to form the action plan for the solution.
Business vs Personal
Apart from being a very powerful tool in business, obviously questions are equally empowering in your personal life. Here is a list of some of the areas you could apply this process to in your personal life;
· Health and fitness
· Learning and personal development
External vs Internal
All of the examples so far have been from the perspective of the world around you. What if you were to make a habit of asking yourself great questions?
· Where are some of my blind spots
· What would I do if I knew I couldn’t fail?
· What kind of a father do I want to be to my kids?
· When am I most confident?
· Why do I want to be successful in business?
· Where can I focus my learning and why is that important to me?
So what are the top 3 questions you could ask to move you closer to your goals right now?