Two Rules that Make You Look Smart When You Ask Questions

You’ve heard reporters ask, “Don’t you agree,” during interviews. That’s an idiotic question for a reporter to ask.

You talk too much when you ask questions that have assumed answers. Leading questions search for affirmation, not information.

Poorly worded questions are an offense to humanity because they disrespect the recipient.

Ill-worded questions are a colossal waste of words. Better to keep your mouth shut than to ask a stupid question.

Smart questions:

  1. Seek honest answers.
  2. Turn the light on.
  3. Open a door.
  4. Provide space for exploration.
  5. Build platforms of interaction.
  6. Respect the recipient.
  7. Don’t have an assumed response.
  8. Occasionally surprise.
  9. Bring up issues that haven’t been considered.
  10. Energize, challenge, and respect.

A great question doesn’t simply inform – it enlightens.

Two rules:

Rule #1: don’t begin questions with verbs.

It takes confidence to be curious.

The following question starters make a mockery of curiosity.

  1. Wouldn’t you…?
  2. Couldn’t you…?
  3. Shouldn’t we…?
  4. Don’t you think…?
  5. Isn’t it a good idea to…?

Questions that begin with verbs search for agreement.

Leading questions are a tedious waste of words.

Note: simple issues can be addressed with verbs. “Would you like to have lunch?” Either/or questions can begin with verbs. “Do you like red or black?”

Poorly worded questions are an offense because smart questions are incredibly easy to create.

Rule #2: smart questions begin with what or how.

Creating great questions isn’t rocket science. “Couldn’t you,” expresses respect when it begins with “what.” “What’s the next step?”

“Don’t you think” is easily elevated to, “What do you think?”

  1. What do you want?
  2. How can I help?
  3. What makes this matter to you?
  4. What opportunities are available?
  5. How did you arrive at that idea?

Today’s challenge: Only ask questions that begin with WHAT or HOW.

What’s challenging about asking questions?

Bonus material:

  • The Book of Beautiful Questions (Warren Berger)
  • Asking Powerful Questions (
  • 25 Powerful Coaching Questions to Get You Where You Want to Go (Jesse Lyn Stoner)
  • The Surprising Power of Questions (HBR)
  • The Science of Asking Great Questions (AMA)
  • Now That’s a Great Question (Bob Tiede) Free download