Asking always works better than telling if you want someone to learn something. Asking leads to self-discovery. The self-discovery process is a sort of quest that involves seeking. If you haven’t already noticed, the word question is based on the word quest.
Quest [kwest] noun a search or pursuit made in order to find or obtain something: a quest for uranium mines; a quest for knowledge.
So then, asking questions involves seeking something.
The method of teaching, learning and mentorship based on asking questions is sometimes referred to as the Socratic Method. It is attributed to Socrates and goes back to at least 400 BC. The Socratic method of learning is used by many Law Schools to this day. If you have ever watched a TV show that has a courtroom scene, you will notice that examining a witness is always done by asking questions. The main points of the Socratic method of learning are twofold.
- First, asking questions is important in uncovering the truth. If you learn by being told or lectured, there is no seeking taking place.
- If you aren’t seeking, how do you know what you are being told is actually true?
- If you aren’t seeking do you make the assumption the one telling you knows what they are talking about, or do you check for yourself?
- Secondly, just asking questions is not enough. They have to be the RIGHT questions. In order to ask the right questions, almost all of us need a mentor (the subject of a future question), someone to guide us in our self-discovery process.
- You might ask, “How can I make a lot of money?” This sounds like a good question, right? There are thousands of ways you can make a lot of money, even in this economy. That doesn’t mean you would actually do any of them.
- A better question would be, “Knowing who I really am and my gifts, what is the best way for me to make the money I want?” That is a much more specific question, which when you get the answer, you might actually pursue.
There are two main types of questions; open and closed ended.
1. Open-ended questions tend to make you think, and to provide information. They are broad and require more than one or two word responses. They also help to build trust and are perceived as being less threatening.
- What kind of information are you looking for?
- What would you like to know about [topic]?
- When you say [topic], what do you mean?
- What examples can you give me?
- Tell me about why you are looking?
- How will you use this information?
- How will this information help you?
- Tell me how this problem arose?
2. Closed-ended questions can be answered by either “yes” or “no.” Closed-ended questions can include presuming, probing, or leading questions. By definition, these questions are restrictive and can be answered in a few words.
- Can I help you?
- May I help you?
- Can you give me more information?
- Have you searched elsewhere?
- Can you describe the kind of information you want?
- Can you give me an example?
- Could you be more specific?
- Are you looking for [topic]?
Then there is the matter or who asks the questions; the teacher or the student.
1. When the teacher asks the questions, he or she is trying to get the student to think about something they may not have thought of before. This is a great way to guide the student, but the onus is on the teacher to get the student to seek.
2. When the student asks the teacher questions, he is the one seeking information. The one asking the questions is always in charge, whether in a classroom, in business, or in self-development. A teacher can feel a great deal of accomplishment when he transitions to answering question instead of asking them.
So what’s the point?
- To get what you seek, you need to ask for it.
- Ask the RIGHT questions and you’ll get the answers you need.
- Let someone else ask the questions, and they are in charge