What’s the Answer? I Don’t Know. What’s the Question?

If you want an answer, you must first know the question. It seems like such a  simple concept, but you would be surprised how often people go about their lives seeking answers to questions that they don’t even know exist. So let’s now just take a few moments and go over some basic tips on asking good questions. These tips can apply to everything from search engines to picking the right soul mate.

Tip number 1: Know what you want to know. Every question should help gather facts or opinions.  Know which kind of info you need and construct your question with that goal in mind.

Tip number 2: Plan you question. Outline your information goals and have related questions that follow the information stream you’ve started.

Tip number 3: Speak the language of the questionee (I made that word up). Whether it’s a human being, or a search engine, relate the questions to their frame of reference with words and phrases that they understand. Avoid industry jargon with people outside an industry.

Tip number 4: Go from general to specific. Start your questions “Big Picture” then drill down into specifics with follow-up questions.

Tip number 5: Ask essential questions. If you don’t really care about the information coming, you probably really only asked a question so that you can express your own opinion on a topic and hear yourself talk. Respect the other person’s time that you are wasting.

Tip number 6: Ask one thing at a time. Craft short queries, each covering only a single point. If you want to know two different things, ask two different questions. You’ll get more complete answers.

Tip number 7: Don’t interrupt. The art of good two way communication lies in wanting the information that is in the answer. Listen to  the full answer to your question.

Tip number 8: With humans, ask open-ended questions. Humans will give you more info if you ask, “What do you like about dogs?” rather than, “Do you like dogs?” That will get a simple “yes” or “no” and the conversation is over.

Now go out there and ask questions!