20191009 - LASCOT2019 - Questions are powerful – use them effectively, Tony Bruce @tonybruce77

by Thierry de Pauw on


Questions are powerful – use them effectively, Tony Bruce @tonybruce77

Slides: https://bit.ly/2oSEaor

Questions only exercise: somebody ask a question and you have to answer with another question

How did it feel? it is hard, you want to immediately answer the question

Powerful tactic: ask questions about the question, ask why

Why do we ask questions?

  • to get clarifications
  • to gain an understanding
  • to get answers
  • to gain knowledge
  • social bonding
  • because we are curious
  • to empathise
  • being sarcastic
  • to challenge
  • to maintain control of a conversation
  • express an interest in a person
  • explore the personality and or difficulties the other person may have
  • test knowledge
  • humour
  • teaching

Can we categorise questions?
If we could, how would we categorise?
What would be an example?

  • the answer is important, information needs to be known
  • question is important, information needs to be shared
  • the asking is important, trigger thinking

=> Critical Thinking community (see slide)

How is this helping you?

  • thinking upfront about what you want to achieve with the question you are going to ask
    • do you want to share information
    • do you want to get some information
    • do you want to trigger thinking this all influences the type of question to ask

What can stop us from asking questions?

  • body language
  • fear of the answer
  • fear of asking a stupid question: don't give the impression of being unsure
  • large groups
  • the need to reply
  • politeness
  • feedback
  • language barrier
  • culture
  • peer pressure
  • we think we know so we don't ask the question
  • bias
    • availability: it is there, so we know
    • confirmation: we think we know

Techniques for asking questions

  • rephrasing: asking the same question differently => clarifying

- could confuse even more
- patronising

  • Tone/Emphasis

What? Really?

- could be open to multiple interpretations

"What, specifically, will you do?"
- specifically: asks for a list of things
- you: finger-pointing
- do: also finger-pointing

  • the right environment

easier to ask
can be comfortable or uncomfortable

example: a noisy environment makes it hard to understand the question

it is cultural dependant

  • open/closed

Socratic Questioning

you continue to ask questions to get deeper in the thinking

you pretend you know nothing about the question
=> so you ask more thoughtful questions

6 types of Socratic questions:

  1. Questions for clarification
  2. Questions that probe assumptions
  3. Questions that probe reasons and evidence
  4. Questions about viewpoints and perspectives
  5. Questions that probe implications and consequences
  6. Questions about the questions

biggest trap:
I'm so busy thinking about the next question to ask, I don't listen anymore to what the person is saying.

- Right environment
- Socrates questioning
- Right time

Active listening

concentrating on what is being said and listening rather than "passively hearing"

=> to gain a better understanding and to respond better

It is easier when we are aware we should be active listening.

It is tricky to know when to and when not to => contextual situation

Right Person

who is the right person to ask the question?
- you are new in the team, somebody else could be better to ask the question
- there might be a personality clash

who is the right person to receive the question? the person with the information, subject matter expert.

- easier coming from the right person

- but the other person might get credit

The "6 honest serving men": What, Why, When, How, Where and Who
=> to help kick off your questions => help dig deeper


what have you observed?
- questioning is a skill, you need to practice it
- questions are a tool, you need to pick the right ones, when to use them, how to use them

what do you want to start doing?
- asking better questions
- take the timing into consideration
- am I not asking the question because I have a confirmation bias