Growing up, it’s almost a guarantee an adult or two provided the sage advice “There is no such thing as a stupid question.” Even if you followed this time-tested wisdom to the utmost, likely, over the years, your skills as a questioner faded due to a myriad of bad experiences. That’s unfortunate because the art of asking the right questions truly will guide you to the right answers and even lead you to new inquiries you hadn’t even previously considered.
How does one learn how to ask the right questions? Well start by getting over your fear of asking.
1) Overcome question-asking fears
Go back to your childhood and follow that ironclad advice. Don’t fear asking questions, in reality you should fear not asking questions. Speak up!
2) No means no; don’t ask closed-ended questions
Avoid asking questions that result in “yes” or “no” answers, i.e. closed-ended questions. Closed-ended questions lead to awkward conversations. Alternatively opt for open-ended questions. For instance stay away from “Are you looking for a solution?” and try an open-ended version such as “What types of solutions are you looking for?”
3) Follow up to clarify
Listen carefully. When a client or potential client answers a question — an open-ended question, of course — follow up with another. Clarify his position. The more information you can glean, the more pertinent follow-up questions you can ask.
4) Go deeper
Not surprisingly the most important aspect of delving deeper into a conversation is listening. Think of your conversation as a tree, the first question you ask is the trunk and each following inquiry builds on the base until you have a complete tree, leaves and all. Gather all of the information you can. When an answer is given ask “Why?” Build on each answer with another question.
Get over your fears, ask open-ended questions, follow up and go even deeper. Allow your inner child to spring forth and become curious once again. You’ll quickly learn that asking the right questions will indeed lead to the best answers.