A young lady recently asked me for my “wisdom and insight,” about some questions she had. Admittedly, there was a time in my life my ego would have kicked in and I would have crawled up on a soapbox and pontificated. However, rather than wax eloquent with pompous meanderings, I started asking her a few questions.

The reasons I asked questions is because I have learned that if I ask the right question, people find their own answers. Advice is cheap; I could have given her my best wisdom and she would have then had to make the choice whether to follow it.

However, if I asked her the right question, then she would come to her own discovery and act up on that because it came from her, not me.

You see, I believe people have their own answers hidden deep within them that they, like me, can’t find unless they ask the right questions. A series of questions is like a treasure map leading them to their own treasure; the right question then becomes the key that unlocks that treasure.

Here are some methods I use of asking questions:

  • Listen to hear, rather than answer – much of the time we spend listening to people is us preparing to answer them. Developing the art of listening is a lifelong process but pays of huge dividends
  • Listen for words they use repeatedly and ask them to explain what they mean.

Here’s a mental list of questions I have found useful.

  • What advice would you give yourself if you were standing on the outside, rather than on the inside.
  • If you were a writer, how would you write the ending or the solution?
  • Can you explain that a bit more?
  • What matters most to you?
  • What bothers you the most?
  • Is there one thing that can fix this?
  • Where do you see this going in a year, five years, ten years?
  • Do you need someone else’s help?

You get the point; if you provide people a platform of questions, they will soon discover their own answers. And they will act upon their answers far more quickly, and decidedly, than on any piece of advice you give them.

I like to think of it this way; all of us get stuck the mud puddles of life and need a helping hand to get out. A good question gets us out of those puddles.

Oddly enough, when people find their own answers through a well-placed question you have given them, they think you’re brilliant.

And you are!