How to Ask a Good Question 03 13 2010
In this Thursday morning’s edition Investor’s Business Daily newspaper there was a quotation from W. Edwards Deming, a management consultant, the quote on the topic of learning. The quote reads, “If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.” I decided to take this issue by the horns and write essay today, that has a few points regarding asking good questions.
Always think this before asking, “Do you know the answer already?”
Is your question one with a common sense answer or does what you want to know contradict with something you know already and you need a clarification?
Has the person talking to you drawn a verbal path to let you know the answer will be forthcoming, if so wait and do not interrupt.
Has the person talking indicated to you that you might have a question and they know the answer, by giving a visual cue such as a pause or smile, then it might be the appropriate time to ask the question.
Have you given them enough time to talk so that they look like they are starting on another topic and they have left an issue of concern to you glossed over, where clarity to all listening is needed.
Do you feel they have made a mistake in what they said, if so ask for clarification in a way so as not condescending to them. Often people make errors of oversight when speaking. If you recognize this, it is your duty to ask for clarification. Do you think what they said is the opposite of what they should have said? Then ask.
When with a new teacher, there will not be a comfortable repoire established yet. Do not ask in a way to discredit them, consider writing your question down, when it occurs to you and asking it at the end of class, if it hasn’t been clarified. Often by doing this you will see whether your question is still a valid one or not. Meaning has it been answered from their continued talking and the answer “sits right” with you. Do this also if you feel you have been labeled as asking stupid questions in the past, this post analysis will help you ask better questions.
When asking a question, often take the attitude someone else might want to know the answer to that question also. But before asking these types of questions think harder.
And there is a way to ask a rhetorical question without being insulting, do this by asking more of a leading question. Leading questions are good.
Often you can tell you have asked a good question because it will put your professor on a roll, talking, and much is learned from the storytelling experience.
If you once asked a dumb question or got that kind of response from the one you asked it to, learn how to ask better questions and try again.
Have you prepared for class and should have known this answer or does your question address contradictions in teachings that need to be resolved.
Finally, don’t ask self serving questions, or arrogant ones. In the Star Trek series, “Star Trek The Next Generation”, there was a character an all powerful deity or God named Q. His name Q, being a metaphor for Question, and he did ask them. Albeit menacing ones, as the answers to his questions often led to a situation of Pandora for the Enterprise and its crew. Q imposed a resulting fate based on the answer. Was he a deity because he asked good questions? Should the Captain of the Enterprise said just once, “That is the dumbest question I’ve ever heard.” and saved himself from the further impact of these questions that put him and his crew in a fateful quandary? Or did Q’s questions lead to a greater learning experience for the outer space explorers.
In today’s political environment, the good questions aren’t being asked to those opposing change, here would be a good place for Q to start asking.
Copyright 2010 Thomas Paul Murphy