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  • Writer's pictureReflective Resources

Q is for Questions

Why do we ask questions?

We ask questions to gain information (and we answer questions to provide such information). This asking and answering of questions is part of how we learn. The nature of the questions we ask ourselves or others are very important to the outcome.

Questions can be classed in different ways:

Closed or Open-ended: Questions can be described as closed-ended (i.e. a yes or no type answer, or minimal response) or as open-ended in which the person who is asked is not constrained and can answer more freely and provide more detailed factual and subjective information.

Pathogenic or Salutogenic: Questions can be pathogenic or salutogenic. Pathogenic questions would be What is wrong with or failing in this scenario? Whereas a salutogenic question would be What is right and leading to success in this scenario?

What will bring about the best sense of well-being? What is the source of physical, psychological and emotional health?

You will only see the questions you ask e.g. If you only focus on what went wrong and why or look for the deficiencies in a scenario, you won’t see the good things

Rhetorical questions: Questions asked in order to create a dramatic effect or to make a point rather than to get an answer.

Golden questions: Golden questions are the smallest number of survey questions that can be used to reproduce market segments previously created from longer lists of questions.

What is the importance of asking questions?

Asking questions can help us in many ways:

“A prudent question is one half of wisdom.” Francis Bacon

Asking questions help us clarify our thinking and can help us retain new information. When we put into words new un-articulated thoughts, it helps us to summarize this new information.

“The master key of knowledge is, indeed, a persistent and frequent questioning.”

Peter Abelard

Asking questions not only widens our knowledge and expands our perspective on life, but it also motivates us to learn more

Asking questions helps our memory. Even if we don’t recall everything we have heard or read, by actively engaging we are more likely to be able to recall that information later.

Asking questions helps us focus and pay attention. It is also a way of affirming to others that we are listening and trying to understand.

“The power to question is the basis of all human progress.” Indira Gandhi

Asking questions can leads to change and innovation. e.g. If we did this instead, what would happen then?

“Advances in science come with the formation of new questions” Aaron Antonovsky

The importance of asking the RIGHT questions

The quality of the questions we ask ourselves or others creates our reality. Specific questions direct you to a specific part of reality i.e. you are likely to miss other stuff

“We see what we look for and we miss much of what we are not looking for even though it is there. Our experience of the world is heavily influenced by where we place our attention Stavros and Torres

By using more insightful open-ended questions it improves communication and you can gather better information and learn more. With the enhanced information, it leads to stronger relationships and more effective management of others.

It is important to ask salutogenic questions i.e focusing on what works. It is all too often crystal clear as to what is wrong in a scenario, particularly with our built in negative bias, so it takes more effort to look for examples where things have succeeded despite the odds and then focusing in on them to see why. i.e. What has led to this success?

Positive Psychology and the art of questioning

Positive Psychology is about countering our innate negative bias and turning our approach to ‘mistakes’ or ‘failures’ on its head

i.e. Why has this failed? This can be replaced with What has made certain individuals/actions succeed despite unfavorable circumstances?

What makes a good question?

“Stop asking whether or not a student is smart. Ask what the student is smart at” Howard Gardener (Multiple Intelligences)

A question that is sincere and comes from genuine interest and curiosity, seeking to understand rather than judge is a ‘good’ question. The greatest questions are not those who have a ‘right’ answer but those that push us to think and reflect and create something new.

How can we improve our questioning skills?

“Only the one who does not question is safe from making a mistake.” Albert Einstein

Embrace our mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. It is what we do with those mistakes that divide those who go on to succeed and those who give up.

Use open-ended questions which create possibilities and encourage discovery, deeper understanding and new insights. Open-ended questions are curious and non-judgmental as they seek to further learning and connection.

Pay attention and listen with focus. For example, after reading a book or listening to a talk etc don’t just think or say That was really good! but delve deeper and spend time reflecting i.e.

How is this relevant to me? How can I apply this to my life?

Embrace your whole self – and become more self-aware of your weaknesses and strengths.

Ask yourself questions!


What are my weaknesses?

What are my strengths?

Turn negative thoughts on their head i.e. so negative statements with little hope transform to more helpful questions

e.g. I’m rubbish at these things becomes

What am I good at?

What strengths can I bring to this situation?

Which areas do I need support or advice?

An interesting book (and accompanying workbook) that will really make you think is

How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci by Michael J. Gelb

Leonardo da Vinci complemented his interpersonal intelligence with a lifelong commitment to developing his self-knowledge and the book helps us to do the same

The accompanying work book lists some thought-provoking self-assessment questions then encourages you to ask yourself 100 questions that are important to you.


"How can I raise my energy level?"

"How can I make more time for the people I love?"

"How can I make a difference in this world?"

Afterwards it encourages you to spot any naturally occurring themes and then to choose the ten questions that seem most significant to you


“When am I most naturally myself?”,

“What people, places, and activities allow me to feel most fully myself, to be truly happy?”, “What can I do to create a more supportive, enjoyable environment on a daily basis?”

After that it focuses on power questions


“What is one thing I could stop doing, or start doing, or do differently, starting today that would most improve the quality my life?”

“What's stopping me and how can I overcome that resistance?”

The book also helps you tackle unresolved problems or questions by using What? When? Who? How? and Where? ( with specific questions to break things down to help you get to the root of unresolved issues) and encourages you to hear what others have to say about you

"Be desirous of hearing patiently the opinion of others, and consider and reflect carefully whether he who censures you has reason for his censure." Leonardo da Vinci

We need to understand the questions

For every question that others ask us, it is useful to ask yourself

What does that question say of the person asking it?

i.e. look for the experience and intent behind the words

We need to know the questions to ask

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The questions we ask, to be effective and worthwhile, should be questions which connect and empathize with yourself, the local community and/or the world around you

The ultimate question is concerned with allowing ourselves to flourish and being the best that we are able to be. Ultimately we all want to be happier so the questions we can ask ourselves could be along the lines of:

What can I do to make my life better?

What can I do to make my local community, this world a better place?

How can we help ourselves and others i.e. individuals, communities and society become happier?

How can we cultivate the seed of greatness in ourselves, in others, in our families?

How can we inspire others with our words (and actions)?

How can we help people to flourish?

Questioning is a powerful tool that can unlock many doors. A question begins a question. It is a key, not only to the eventual answer, but to all the other questions in between and afterwards.

Questions not only improve our connection with others, but are key to help us identify who we are, how we can improve our our lives so we can flourish plus are a key to understanding and improving the wider world around us.

What will your next question be ???

“There are no foolish questions and no man becomes a fool until he has stopped asking questions.” Charles Proteus Steinmetz

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