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Good Questions, good Answers; Bad Questions, Bad Replies


I'm convinced that asking the right questions is one of the most important skills you need to become a successful business person. Questions have the power to direct you or to distort you. The right kind of questions will direct you to success the wrong kind of questions will direct you to bankruptcy.

Let me ask you a question, have you ever realized how often people ask questions? Why is that the case? Well, we usually ask questions when we need an answer. And we usually need answers when we want to make a decision.

Every decision-making process can be described as a process of questions and answers.Our brain constantly asks questions. Every single moment our brain evaluates. It evaluates every situation asking two basic questions. Does what happens mean pain or pleasure and, if it means pain, how can I avoid it? Given we allow ourselves to look at our brain as a part of us, we constantly ask questions and make decisions based on the answers.

Some of the questions we ask our brain are little bit more complex but nevertheless our brain is used to give answers. In fact,it will come always up with an answer. What ever you ask yourself you will get an answer. Even if you get the answer " I don't know".

I want you to think a little bit about this. It pretty much shows what I mean when I say that we are in control about our brain. If some part of my brain, usually named the conscious, asks a question, some other part of the brain, usually named the unconscious, always comes up with an answer. Isn't that a fascinating experience? Whatever you ask yourself, your brain will deliver an answer. Ask and ye shall get an answer.

If you ask yourself " why do I always fail?", you can be sure your brain comes up with an answer. It will look inside all the memories you have if there is some kind of pattern that could explain why you always fail.

If you're lucky, your brain comes up with another question like " how do you know you will always fail?" But most of the time, especially if our brain is not trained to talk back, it will come up with the best reason it can find why you fail.

The problem is that your question implies a fact that is wrong. You do not always fail, in fact failing is a generalization, something that means different things to different people. Because your brain is so obedient to you (you control it through your questions), it comes up with an answer, even if the answer is less than validated or simply wrong.

If you ask yoursself "Why am I not successful" your brain is not going to question that belief of yours. It simply looks for an answer.

If you ask yourself "Why am I so ugly" your brain does not try to convince you that you are beautiful or starts a philosophical dialog about beauty. It just comes up with an answer; like "because you eat to much", or something similar. Asking the wrong questions can really be devastating.

Can you see what I mean when I state that good questions are so important for success?

If you ask yourself the wrong questions you get an answer, but you get the wrong answer. You get an answer that limits you rather than empowers you. There are certain types of questions that tend to be limiting, and there are certain types of questions that tend to be empowering.

First of all always try to ask open questions. What is an open question? Basically, an open question is a question that cannot be answered with yes or no.

Open questions help a conversation going on, be it with yourself or with others. Here are some open questions and its closed equivalent.

"Do you like soccer?" "Yes." Better is "What do you think about soccer?" Now there's something to say.

"Are you guilty?" "Nope." "How can't you convince me you are not guilty?" Now you are in trouble. -By the way, that is an example on how to imply the napolean law on others. You don't know what the napolean law is? "You are guilty unless you proof your innocence".

I think you've got the point. If you want to have a conversation, a dialog, whether with yourself or others try to ask open questions.

When it comes to decisions there is a set of questions that quickly lead into trouble. These are the questions that start with the word "why".

Why-questions ask for a cause and answers of why-questions usually evoke the word 'because (be-cause)' in the answer.

"Why did hit your head against the wall?" "Because I was paying no attention."

"Why are all against me?""Because you are a to weak to respond"

"Why is everybody successful but me?""Because you are illiterate."

Got the pattern here? Why questions ask for a cause. The problem is twofold.

First, knowing the cause of a problem is not the solution but only tells you something about the past. Second, because your brain wants to come up with an answer, the cause it presents you might be less than right and heavily shaped by your beliefs rather than facts.

If you really seek trouble, go for why-questions. They are great for supervisors as well. "Why is that letter still not written?", "Why are you always late?", "Why is the coffee machine broken". All these questions have the potential to start a nice little conflict.

Let's try to rephrase them in a way to open solutions. "What has to happen to get that letter out by today?" Great, now we have opened the question to look for a path to success.

"You could have someone else write it", "You could have someone else type in those numbers, so I am free to write it",

"You could brew your coffee by yourself, so I have time to write it" and the list can be expanded on and on.

You see how asking different questions get different results?

If you want to start an empowering thought process that has the power to change things, ask questions that start with the word how or what.

Not "Why didn't we meet the revenue goal last year?", but "How can we ensure we meet the revenue goal this year?".

Not "Why do i never succeed?",but"What has to happen for me to feel I am a success?"

You can see how the how- and what-questions all of a sudden turn the focus from the past, which is gone anyway, to the future, the solution.

Powerful questions are always focused on the future, the process, the outcome. Limiting questions are always focused on the past.

Start asking yourself and others powerful questions and you get answers that shape the future the way you want it. Keep going to ask limiting questions and you stay where you always been.

Let me ask you a question? What would it take for you to start changing now?

This article may published freely only in its whole including all appendices.

2005 by Norbert Haag

A complimentary copy of any newsletter or a link to the site where the article is posted is greatly appreciated.Online Business Coach (http://www.onlinebusinesscoach.com)

Norbert Haag is a business consultant, entrepreneur and sought after speaker for more than 20 years.

His company - Online Business Coach http://www.onlinebusinesscoach.com - provides information and services for online businesses, small business owners and freelancers.

You can reach Norbert at nhaag@onlinebusinesscoach.com.


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