The genius of asking good questions

Why mentors (and mentees) should all be asking better questions than knowing and giving the right answers.

I have some friends who stand out as leaders and who have unknowingly mentored me through contact with them. One of their traits is that they are amazingly curious and always ask good, penetrating questions that cause me to think and reflect more deeply. I always leave our conversations feeling that they are interested in me and what I do and the dialogue that comes out of their questions enriches me.

The art of asking good questions is often overlooked. Some people like to talk, and they talk a lot – usually about themselves and their accomplishments. Some merely listen – which is often better than talking, but the wisest are people who ask penetrating questions, and listen carefully, and then even think to ask follow up questions.

So why is asking good questions a genius move by a mentor?

Here is the genius, it becomes a mechanism of learning for both parties. Whether it is about business, personal matters or family, the best way to understand another individual is to ask questions. Not only that but those we are with often have a wealth of information that we didn’t know which adds to our knowledge and often triggers ideas for us in life and business.

It also helps both parties to think more deeply, and they often come to greater clarity as they answer. And it deepens relationships even if they are new because questions invariably say “I am interested in you, what you do and what you think.” Self-absorbed people tend to pontificate and talk while healthy individuals are inquisitive and focus on those around them. In fact, you can gauge the emotional health (EQ) of others by how many questions they ask.

Question asking is a skill we can all learn.

Good question asking is a learned skill for most of us, and if practiced it can be developed. Here are some of the kinds of questions I have found that open up a conversation and lead to greater in-depth dialogue.

  • Tell me about your work?
  • What do you love about what you do?
  • What is the most significant challenge in your job?
  • How do you stay sharp and what do you do to keep growing?
  • What is your happiness factor from one to ten? What would make it higher?
  • Tell me about your family?
  • How did you end up doing what you currently do?
  • How have you defined your purpose in life?
  • What life circumstances have most defined who you are today?

You can see how questions like this can lead to a much broader conversation as well as cause the one you are with to reflect more deeply on their own life and work. Those you are with will also know that you care about them and are interested in them and who they are. If you want to be a person of influence, and a great mentor, learn the art of asking great questions.

Vince Miller Founder of ResoluteVince Miller is a speaker, author, and mentor to men. He is an authentic and transparent leader who loves to communicate to audiences on the topics of mentorship, fathering, leadership and manhood. He has authored 13 books and small group curriculum for men and is the primary content creator of all Resolute materials. Contact Vince Miller here. His newest book is Thirty Virtues That Build A Man.