The Single Best Way to Respond to Questions
Hire people who ask questions. They’re smarter than people who don’t.
Some leaders don’t have time for questions. Others are afraid of questions. They think, “What if I don’t have the answer?”
Some team members worry that questions make them look stupid.
Smart people don’t know-it-all. They learn-it-all.
When asked to name a trait that would most help CEO’s succeed, Michael Dell responded, “I would place my bet on curiosity.” Warren Berger
4 benefits of curiosity:
- Learn quicker – questions signal openness.
- Achieve more – curiosity innovates.
- Engage fully – curious people seek novelty.
- Connect powerfully – questions invite people into relationship.
“… curiosity-induced behaviors such as information seeking play a meaningful role in workplace learning as well as in job performance. Reio
5 ways to respond to questions:
The best way to respond to questions is with encouragement.
#1. Pause and relax.
Don’t give quick answers. Sometimes you know the answer before the question is finished. Pause anyway. Smile. Relax.
A pause indicates interest.
A smile lets people know they matter.
#2. Respond to questions with questions.
You think you understand the question but you probably don’t.
- Why is this important to you? (Use ‘why’ gently. It might feel like an accusation.)
- What makes this matter to you?
#3. Affirm question-askers.
Asking questions creates vulnerability. An employee wonders what the boss thinks of them.
Let people know smart people ask questions.
- It takes insight to ask questions like that.
- That’s a great question.
- I’m glad you asked.
#4. Expand and clarify questions.
- Could you ask that question a different way?
- Here’s what I hear you asking. Am I on target?
#5. Use body language to encourage questions.
- Raise your eyebrows in curiosity.
- Lean in and then lean back.
- Say, “Hmmm,” or “Huh.” (Thanks Stan Endicott.)
Respond to questions in ways that create more questions.
“Never pride yourselves on teaching a great number of things. Rest content to rouse curiosity.” Anatole France
How do leaders discourage questions?
How can leaders encourage questions?
Curiosity – Remarkable Practices, Unexpected Benefits
Stop Asking Boring Questions – 3 Ways to Ask Questions People Love to Hear
Hi, is there a limit to how many times the same question is asked? Also, when response and documentation have been presented but not accepted from a compliance standpoint should the question and/or issue be bumped to Legal? Thank you for your time and kindness.
Great questions, Juliette.
Is there a limit to how many times the question is asked? It depends on the reason you’re asking the question.
Some questions can be used over and over. Before coaching conversations, I often ask, “What’s going to make this a great conversation for you?” I think I could ask that every time.
I feel a concern that asking the same question might seem stale or disinterested. If that’s the case, adopting new language that expresses the same question might be useful.
If the concern is about people who don’t follow through, repeating the same question is futility. We have to do something different if we expect something different.
Regarding taking things to legal. I don’t dare have an opinion. 🙂
Thanks for asking an interesting question.
Thank you Sir, the structure of the answer was absolutely perfect!
I love the Anatole France quote as I prepare my summer course! Thanks!!
Yes, I was delighted to find it. I found it on Quoteinvestigator.com. That’s my favorite place to go for reliable quotes.
What a great way to wrap up the week! Thank you for your constant nuggets of learning.
One way I expand on my curiosity of a topic, or the speaker, is to say: “Hmm, that is interesting. Please… tell me more.” Rarely will anyone refuse the opportunity to keep sharing.
Thanks Cheryl. Love that approach. “Please…tell me more,” is so easy and yet so useful. Thank you for jumping in today.
I read your blog everyday and find it to be both inspirational and helpful. Your posts are well researched and I often find that they arrive in my inbox when I’m trying to figure out solutions to problems that come up in my role as a school principal here in Alberta Canada.
Your ability to continually post comments on a wide variety of topics is really well-done! I hope you continue to keep up the good work.
What an encouraging note. Thank you.
I wish you well. You have a challenging role.
This is a great blog post. Employees tend to be afraid to ask questions so it is Up to their lesser to create an environment that welcomes questions and curiosity. I like Cheryl’s take to be inquisitive and asking they continue their thought.