Don’t be like a Labrador! Ask questions before you jump into something

Have you ever observed a Labrador playing with his master? Whatever you throw, he jumps to catch it. This is a strong friendly dog who likes to play and explore the surroundings. Sometimes too much. When the toy accidently lands in the neighbour’s garden, the Labrador jumps after it, no matter what. What happens then? The Labrador hits the wall!

All too often we behave like Labradors! So excited and eager to catch that next thing that we ignore a wall. And then it hurts.  

Most often there is not so much urgency as it appears

“Buy now! 50% discount only today!” These types of headlines try to trigger our sense of urgency instinct to act fast without thinking it through. While in some cases you need to indeed act immediately (e.g. a person jumps into the street while you are driving), more often than not those are false alarms, trying to get you out off balance.

It’s rarely that unique of an offer to which you need to respond today. So it’s better to learn how to recognize when someone is pushing you to make that decision today. Give yourself plenty of time to analyze the situation and respond in a well-thought out way. Fast decisions are often emotional ones which you might regret soon after.

We should never stop asking questions

Children ask lots of questions; they are curious about everything. Just look at this sweet young lady continuously questioning her father at breakfast. Her discoveries about the father are really interesting and she asked only one question – Why?

Graffiti Wall
Curiosity is the fuel to discover ideas and learn new things

Although we all grew up asking tons of questions every day, as adults, we tend to ask fewer questions. It seems that we are less curious because, maybe, if we continue asking questions as we did in our childhood, we might be perceived as too weak, stupid or uncertain.

But this is completely untrue! Asking good questions is more important than knowing all the answers. It’s a true sign of intelligence, curiosity and strength. Nobody knows all the answers and knowing how to question is one of the most important skills anyone could have.

Learn how to ask good questions

So, whenever someone throws you a stick and encourages you to run after it, hold your breath and stop for a moment. You need to evaluate whether you are not going to hit a hard wall. And the best way to do it is by asking for more time and information.

Asking questions is not that hard if you have plenty of time, but mostly you don’t. In this case you need to know a few tips & tricks which will help you to ask right questions the right way:

–   Open questions. Almost always ask open questions because they help to get a wider view from your respondent. Avoid leading questions which already include a suggested response from your side.

Say, “How can I be sure this is a genuine item?” and not “This is a genuine item, isn’t it?”

Nevertheless in some cases open questions don’t help. For example, if you try to examine whether a second hand car had an accident, don’t ask an open question such as “Tell me more about…” because it’s easy to hide a fact. Instead, ask a closed question: “Did this car have an accident in the past?”

–   Listen! It’s better to listen than talk. Always go into a discussion with an open mind to learn, instead of confirming your pre-existing thoughts. If you really want to speak, make sure you are the last one to do it.

When it comes to problem solving in business, I always use 5WHYs technique which helps to find root causes

–   Insist on facts and data. If possible always confirm your answers with facts and data. You don’t want to be misguided with opinions and subjective views instead of factual evidence. Say, “Could you show me the expiry date?” instead of “When is the expiry date?”

–   Reframe questions. Sometimes the best answers, solutions and ideas come by asking a question from a different perspective. For example, instead of asking “How can we improve our customer experience?” ask “What can we do in our business so that our customers feel like they’re at the spa center?”

Questions are more than a simple request for information. They are a way to guide you, and to help you reflect and learn. So make sure you don’t ask poor questions which lead to poor answers.  

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