I was leaning over the counter eating artichoke hearts out of the can when my friend Kerason texted me mid-bite. She was asking if I knew what I was going to write yet since it’s 5:06 on Tuesday—the day I promised myself I’d send you love notes.
I didn’t have a complete idea formulated yet, but apparently, I’m inspired by food because I instantly recalled something I overheard last night that I had wanted to tell you about.
Cue to last night…
As I hopped off my bike in front of the restaurant, I heard a woman say, “Sit. Sit. Can you sit?” She sounded frustrated.
Her dog, who was clearly ignoring her, had no intention of sitting right then and there.
But as I was locking my bike to the “No Parking” sign, her last question struck me as odd.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it’s something I’ve said to Jake (my dog) a thousand times when he isn’t listening.
But it was in this moment that I realized there may be no such thing as a dumb question, but there are certainly meaningless questions, and this is one of them.
Can you sit?
I couldn’t help but imagine the dog as an animated cartoon with a thought bubble over its head saying, “I CAN sit but I don’t feel like it, and you can’t hear me talking back to you, so I’m not going to.”
A more meaningful question to pique the rebel retrievers interest would have been, “Do you want a treat?” Then telling him to sit.
While exchanging treats for commands isn’t great dog parenting, it works—and it highlights an important point.
If you want better answers, you have to ask better questions.
The questions you ask are a direct reflection of how much energy you want the other person to put into a response. Meaningless questions get meaningless answers and leave people in a connectionless loop of social scripts.
It’s like when the guy at the checkout counter asks, “How are you?”
Do you tell him you didn’t get much sleep and you’re hungry, but overall it was a good day? No. You say “Fine” and wait for your receipt.
Asking better questions is a really easy way to show people that you care. It’s also a really easy way to be a better human.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, right? So when we put more energy into the questions we ask, we’re leaving the space for an authentic answer.
If you want to get meaningful information from someone (your boyfriend, your daughter, your client, that complete stranger who is a total hottie sitting near you at the coffee shop) you have to ask meaningful questions.
But since that’s easier said than done, I thought I’d give you a few tips on how to do just that.
Here are 3 ways to ask better, high-energy questions:
1). Keep them open-ended.
One of the easiest ways to ask more meaningful questions is to keep them open-ended. Yes/no questions can often feel like an interrogation…which is exactly how I felt when my dad used to ask me “did you do your homework?” (The irony here is that my dad routinely talks about asking better questions with his clients).
2). Add some context.
The problem with broad, overly open-ended questions can be that they’re so broad they induce analysis paralysis. Like when Patrick asks where I want to go to dinner tomorrow night… He’d be doing me a huge favor and getting us closer to an answer if he added a little context.
“I’d like to take you to dinner tomorrow night at a Mexican place, which one sounds good to you?”
Adding some context goes a long way so that it’s easier for the person to come up with an answer that’s going to be useful to you.
3). Understand why you’re asking the question.
This is the most important.
If you’re just asking a question to break the silence, chances are you won’t spark a worthwhile one–and you’re likely to annoy the other person.
Know why you’re asking the question and adjust what you ask accordingly.
For example, if you’re trying to understand which social media platform is your audiences favorite so that you can show up there more often, you don’t just want to ask, “which social media platform is your favorite?” Asking this way won’t help you know if it’s their favorite to post on or their favorite platform for connecting with family.
Instead, it’d be better to ask, “Which social media platform is your favorite for business inspiration?” Then, you’d actually know where to focus your efforts to connect.
Engagement, connection, and ultimately, success comes from asking meaningful questions. Investing in how you say things is the best thing you can do to enhance your relationships—with clients, friends, lovers, and your family.
Not to mention, deep conversations are significantly more fun, and you can only go deep when you get meaningful.
With so much love,
P.S Is it just me or do you eat strange things tucked in the back of your cabinets when you’re home alone too? Please let me know I’m not alone in this in the comments.
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