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How to Ask Good Questions

How to Ask Good Questions

Questions We Should Ask

Asking questions is an essential tool for gaining knowledge and understanding. When we encounter something old, new or unfamiliar, our natural inclination is to question it. Whether it is a physical object, a concept, or an abstract idea, asking the right questions helps us understand it better. In this blog, we explore twelve different categories of questions that can (and should) be asked about anything.

1. Existence questions.

These questions focus on the reality of the thing in question. Does it really exist, or is it a fiction? How do we know that it exists and is not just a product of our imagination?

This category also includes questions about disputed realities, such as ghosts, spirits, angels, luck and Gods.

2. Identity questions.

These questions seek to define the thing in question by identifying its primary qualities, its broader classification, its essential distinguishing characteristics, and its word definition. They also ask whether we can point to a concrete example of the thing in question.

Identity also includes questions about its purpose. We ask whether it has a purpose, and if so, whose purpose does it serve?

3. Origin questions.

Everything that exists has origins. It must be caused by a previous set of circumstance. Origin question seek to find the root causes of the thing we are investigating.

4. Composition questions.

These questions seek to understand what the thing is made of, what form of matter or energy it is, and what chemical elements it contains. They also ask how many major subset parts or systems the thing should be divided into and what names we should give each of these parts.

5. Internal organization and structure questions.

These questions focus on the relative importance, size, and weight of the thing's component parts, how they are organized in relation to each other, and how they are connected. They also ask whether there are mathematical formulas that describe their interrelationship.

6. Mode of action and functionality questions.

These questions seek to understand how the thing operates, how it functions, how one operates it, and how it acts. They also ask about the thing's potential reactions and its inherent limitations.

7. Location and spatial questions.

These questions ask about the thing's physical dimensions, mass, weight, location, speed, and direction. They also ask about the limits of its range.

8. Change questions.

These questions focus on how the thing changes over time, what it changes from and into, and what the rate of change is. They also ask about the frame of reference being used to measure the change and whether changing the frame of reference would affect the measurement.

9. Time questions.

These questions seek to understand the total duration of the event, what the start and finish times are, and how many subset time elements there are. They also ask about the ideal or actual chronological sequencing of the events.

10. Energy (money) questions.

These questions ask how much energy (or money) the thing requires, what forms of energy/money it requires, how it is obtained, and from where it gets it. We also ask about the thing's energy/money efficiency. In addition, we may ask whether it carries a net electrical or magnetic charge.

11. Context questions.

These questions seek to understand the thing's orientation, the normal environmental context, and how changing the surrounding environment would affect the thing's action. We also ask whether recent changes in the thing's action can be accounted for by changes in the surrounding conditions.

12. Uncertainty or the "X Factor."

These questions ask what we don't know and need to find out, what hasty assumptions we have made that may be wrong, what new assumptions may be more correct. We also ask what we cannot know about the thing, and what we have forgotten to ask.

If we answer these questions, we will gain a thorough understanding of the thing we are investigating.

Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers. [Voltaire]

Blog: Ways You Can Use Questions

About the Author: Chris Farmer

Chris

Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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Further Reading in Communication - Listening Skills

  • How to ask the right questions
    How to ask the right questions Communication skills training includes how to ask the right questions. In any conversation, there is always the danger of some misinterpretation of the meaning of the message. The causes of the misinterpretation are many and each cause can be averted by asking the right question...
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  • How to Ask Good Questions
    People are judged by their questions rather than by their answers. Are you stuck in a rut, not progressing in your career? Learning to ask good questions is key to your learning and understanding. Here are some great questions you can use.
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  • How to Improve Active Listening Skills
    Active listening is a useful skill to master, not only you will gain a more in-depth understanding of what is being talked about, but Managers who are active listeners will develop a better working relationship with their team.
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  • Communication Skills: Listen-out for What is Not Being Said
    When listening to another person who is trying to convince you to accept an idea, or opinion, it is often very important to listen out for what is NOT being said, ie you need to be concerned with what the other person is taking for granted.
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  • Three Levels of Listening
    Listening is one aspect of communication, and which can be categorised into 3 different levels. How do you listen? Do you pretend to listen, or do you listen with intent to criticise or disapprove, or do you listen to understand?
    Read Article >

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