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Aug 07

Why Do I Ask

Speaker: Lawrence Lo

 

Lawrence with CC Project 3: Why Do I Ask? Questions, questions, questions - they're important!I wonder what should I share tonight. Are there recent interesting events to comment on? Which should I choose to share?  How do I decide which one to choose?  Why do I only have questions and no answers? Hold on. Why not simply talk about asking questions?

Tonight, I’m going to share with you on how asking questions. Oh wait, let me rephrase. On how asking the right questions will benefit you. My topic is actually inspired by this book “The Seven Powers of Questions” written by Dorothy Leeds. I am not going to talk about the entire book or all seven powers.  I’m simply going to share my learning experiences and insights on how asking questions has benefited me in 1) learning, 2) getting the right information, and 3) connecting to others.

 

Question simulates thinking  / encourages learning

First of all, asking questions simulates thinking and hence encourages us to learn. By asking the why and how questions, it gives you focus to the topic on hand. It brings your attention to a problem, and you start thinking of solutions.

For example, I used to ask myself ‘How can I eat potato chips without dirtying my hands?’ It gets irritating when you are doing work on your laptop, and your right fingers get dirty with the chips.  However, because I asked, I learn to find a solution. I learnt to eat my chips with chopsticks. And there you go, you can eat chips without dirtying your hand.

Apart from asking question, you learn by answering your own questions too. If you are able to answer questions about the topic, it shows that you truly understand.

Just to give an example. I teach tuition to young primary school students. One of my favorite activities is to go through multiple choice questions with them. Some kids, being kids, will like to be cheeky. They will find all ways to copy answers, and give you that cheeky smirk when you mark their answers. I like to see that look of disappointment on their face when I ask them to explain themselves, even for those they got it right. Sometimes they give a shrug. I will only continue if they show that they got it right based on the right concept. As a bonus, after a while, they learn that copying answers will not work for me.

We can apply the same approach to our daily life, and ask questions to ourselves to check our own understanding.

I hope you are convinced that asking questions will encourage us to think and learn, by giving us focus and clarifying our understanding.

 

Questions gives us valuable information

The second key benefit I gain is the valuable information I get from asking questions. There are countless things that I do not know. There are always new perspectives or new concepts to learn, and we learn by asking questions.  Being curious and inquisitive has worked well for me in my work place. The more you ask, the more you learn. When you start connecting all those dots, you are able to make better decisions.

At work, I also ask to clarify assumptions, to avoid mis-interpretation or vague statements. At work, I’m involved in projects implementation, and we often need to discuss timelines. One of the frequent comment observed is, ‘we will complete this by Aug’. My boss will ask, ‘Do you mean beginning of Aug, or end of Aug’? That makes a lot of difference in the project implementation, when following the timeline is important.

What is worst is that you make the wrong interpretation and things get messed up. In fact, I find it always more troublesome to request answers again later, or worst, clean up the mess as a result of misinterpretations.

When asking the right questions, the answers become more meaningful to us, and it helps us listen better. For example, before I head to any meeting which I need to make a decision, I always prepare myself by asking the questions I need to make the decision. Through the discussion, I know what to listen for. If I don’t get answers I need, I will make sure to ask.

By always asking the right questions, you learn more, you avoid misinterpretation and you gain information for your purpose.

 

Questions get people to open up

The third benefit I like about asking questions is that it helps you connect to others. Asking questions shows others that you are interested in who they are and what they have to say.  At home, it is always nice to ask questions with your family members to find out more about each other.

While you are in the lift at your office with your colleagues, asking simple questions can avoid some awkward moments of silence in your journey. You can either ask questions to learn more about your colleagues, or latest happenings in their department, or the latest gossips.  However, I do admit that there is one question I hate. That is, “How do you do?” It will be useful to ask something more specific.

I find it useful to build rapport with children I’m tutoring. I deal with kids who are generally quite rebellious.  If you show that you are truly interested in finding out what they do by asking questions, they will open up. Last week, I learn that kids are interested in this game called Minions 2. I have no idea what that game is. All I know it’s something which kids are skipping homework for it. Now I have a different problem – dealing with kids who get impatient when I don’t pay enough attention.

 

Conclusion

You have probably heard more questions than what you intend to hear tonight.  But I hope you are convinced that asking more questions will benefit you in many ways.  It encourages you to think and learn. It gives you valuation information. And it helps people to open up and connect with you.

It may not always work. It is also important to note the tone, the circumstance, and how you ask the questions?

Give some more thoughts, ask more questions. I hope your questions will lead you to the answers you seek, and help in your personal and working life.

 

Thank you.

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