QUESTIONING CULTURE

DISCOVERING THE TRUTH

A question is defined as a sentence that seeks an answer for the purpose of information collection, tests and research. Good questions produce accurate responses and this aids in collecting actionable quantitative and qualitative data.

The art of asking the right questions helps to gain deep insights, take informed decisions and develop effective solutions. To know how to ask good questions, it is imperative to know the basic question types.

When a question leads to an answer, there can be more truth to discover. Search each answer to see if it presents a new set of questions. Eventually, there will come an answer which does not appear to present a new question an answer which seems to answer all previous questions.

A. SOCRATIC METHOD

This question and answer methodology for discovering the truth is nothing new. It is often referred to as the “Socratic Method” named after the ancient Greek Philosopher Socrates. Socrates would continue asking questions until his listeners provided the most logical answer.

The Socratic method of questioning led people to discover the answer and find their underlying beliefs. One of the techniques that Socrates used was to ask a question by turning the question into a statement, followed by a question.

For example; instead of asking “Why is the world around?” Sokrates would say “So you think the world is round. Why do you think this?”

This questioning techniques would unlock underlying beliefs.

B. PROBING QUESTIONS

Research on the questions teachers ask shows that about 60 percent require only recall of facts, 20 percent require students to think, and 20 percent are procedural in nature. So, we need to push somebody to remember the answer of question by prompting.”(1-)

Probing questions help us to extend our knowledge beyond factual recall, to apply what is known to what is unknown and to eloborate on what we do know. By “peeling the union” and getting to the heart of a matter, we are more likely to find our own “truths”.

Types of probing questions are;

  • Clarifying (define the condition)
  • Increasing critical awareness (draw attention)
  • Refocusing (define the action for next step)
  • Prompting (least to most prompting)
  • Redirect to another person (receive feedback from another person)

Questions support us in seeing another perspective and in raising our awareness that another perspective exists and is possible. For example;

C. OPEN AND CLOSED QUESTIONS

A closed ended question is one where there are a limited number of acceptable answers, usually yes or no.

An open ended question is one where there are many acceptable answers. Open-ended questions provide an opportunity to elaborate. Some examples of ended questions are shown; “What was your experience with the project?”.

D. STATEMENTS vs QUESTIONS

When we use the statements above, the intent may be to gather information like you would when you use a question. However statements can come across as directive and even demanding.

E. THINKING TIME

If we don’t allow enough time between asking a question and expecting an answer, then we are not effectively questioning and the quality of information we get back will reflect that.

In 1972, an educational researcher, Mary Budd Rowe, conducted research in high schools on the amount of thinking time that teachers typically allowed after asking a question of their students.

She found that most teachers’ avarage time was less than 1.5 seconds. What she also found was that when these periods of silence were increased to at least 3 seconds, many positive things happened. The number of “I don’t know” and no answer responses decreased. The length of responses increased, and students answered correctly more often.” (2-)

Most dramatically of all, the scores of students in academic achievement tests increased. If we want to toughtful response, we must provide enough time to think!

As a result, many of us are conditioned to give quick, rather than thoughtful responses to questions or risk not being listened to at all!

F. ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTION

Asking the right question is the key to powerful questioning. To ask the right question, you must focus completely on listening to what is being said.

Asking questions is like digging for hidden treasure, the piece of information that will support you or the person you are speaking to.

G. POWERFULL QUESTIONS

The art of powerfull questioning lives within the art of coaching. Coaching is all about discovery, learning and change.

However; attitude, mindset, pace and timing all effect the impact of asking questions. A coach must be conscious of these things at all times.

When coaching, you must feel relaxed and not pressured to be right or to know the answer. When askinf questions, it is important to check in with any assumptions that you make when an answer is given to a question. You need to ensure that the meaning of an answer is clearly understood so further questioning can support this.

CREATING A QUESTIONING CULTURE

Questions sharpen strategy, vision and values, building the capacity for change. Creating a culture of discovery empowers people, simulates creativity, surfaces underlying beliefs and supports change!

Here ara some tips to creating powerful coaching questions;

  • Create a space where you are not distracted
  • Listen carefully to what is being said
  • Allow for thinking time
  • Ask questions to gain greater meaning or clarity
  • Ensure there is no judgement or any assumptions being made in the coaching questions
  • Consider how you will answer questions being asked by the coachee, where they are seeking solutions from you

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