…and asking better questions

Extracted from a conversation with a friend on Thursday 24 August 2017 and later edited.

Context

I find it’s very much a case of checking the context that a question presumes.

For instance, “Why does it always happen to me?”, is a horrible question. It assumes

  1. There is a reason
  2. That it is personally linked
  3. It always happens
  4. It implies this is not going to change

Those assumptions don’t always map with reality, so you’d find a guilt or shame inducing answer which doesn’t actually help, but rather hinders you.

“How can I avoid…”, or “What other perspecives can I bring to this?” might be better questions depending on the context.

Expertise

Sometimes, when as a beginner you might ask “How do I do ‘x’?”. You presume to know enough to understand and action the answer. You also presume you have enough expertise to ask the right question. If you don’t, you may have a worthless answer.

Asking instead of the principles might be a better option, for instance “How can I learn the principles to do ‘x’, and then how can I go about it?”, “What are the specific terms and jargon used in this field?”

Reductionism

Some questions are reductionist in nature, “How does being happy help you to be successful?”. But success is complex with many moving parts to it. You may get an answer, but it is incomplete without the bigger context to evaluate it from. Happiness may just be a footnote, but the question implies it’s bigger than that.

No Perfect Question

There is no perfect question, but many questions presume an answer that might not be there.

Add to the fact that most people will answer in a way that mirrors the question and you could get some nuanced answers that you’d miss without the expertise to interpret the answer.

In Other Words

Basically, it’s the process of analysing anothers text, but digging into your own assumptions instead. You can go nuts with this, which is why rather than questioning all my thinking, I’ll pick and choose for when a good answer matters most.

When I Use It

For me, I mainly use it in major life events & when embarking on new topics to save misunderstandings