Heartstyles blog

How do I ask Better Questions?

Sam Knowles, a data researcher (and a classicist with a doctorate in psychology) wrote Asking Smarter Questions in 2023 and in his final chapter has a list of those he considers to be the best. 

 Here are some that relate to a work context:

·         Where are we?

·         Why are we here?

·         Where could we be?

·         How could we get there?

·         Are we getting there?

And here are some that relate to a personal context:

·         How do you spend your time?

·         What (not how) are you feeling?

·         What three things can we be grateful for?

·         What can I control?

·         Who am I talking to?

 And Knowles set out six principles for asking smarter questions: curiosity, open-mindedness preparation, openness (in questions, ie not closed ones), simplicity, and listening (leaving others time and space).  These are important because asking smarter questions does not come naturally to us – at least once we as children have stopped asking “why?”.

There is a business case for curiosity, the first of Knowles’ principles, made cogently in the Harvard Business Review (September-October 2018) by Francesca Gino, who says: “Leaders should hire for curiosity, model inquisitiveness, emphasize learning goals, let workers explore and broaden their interests, and have “Why?” “What if…?” and “How might we…?” days. Doing so will help their organizations adapt to uncertain market conditions and external pressures and boost the business’s success.”

Suddenly the asking of better questions, set in the context of a business case for curiosity, means a business impact; and there is a personal one too.  Better questions allow you to see and hear others, build a proper context, start to understand and appreciate difference, and build empathy.

Extending your compass, enriching others by encouraging their growth are “Above-the-Line” behaviours in Heartstyles terms. Great questions (and the active listening that follows them) unlock growth and development for yourself and others; they help you relate to friends and colleagues; and they keep you from the relationship-killing behaviours of self-promotion and self-protection to be found “Below-the-Line.”

Ready to start your own Heartstyles journey? Contact us.