February 23, 2015

Stop Interrogating, Start Understanding


What’s the difference between asking and interrogating? When we ask someone a question, or a series of questions, we come from a place of curiosity. When we interrogate someone, we approach them from a place of judgment. The difference is in the intention and the outcomes of the two interactions are polar opposites.

When a person tells us about a plan they have, a mistake they’ve made or a situation they face, and we sincerely seek to understand them, and might even want to help them, we ask open-ended questions like: What have you tried so far? What do you think is best? What are your next steps? We also ask powerful questions like: What is your desired outcome? What was the lesson? How do you suppose you can find out more about it?

That’s very different from the kinds of questions we ask when we’re seeking information that suits our own agendas, or when we try to find a culprit or to prove a point. Then, we might ask yes/no questions like: Is this an effective strategy for you? Do you know how to avoid this in the future? Are you sure you haven’t tried something else? And we’re also likely to ask leading questions like: This is a good idea, right? You want to make partner, don’t you?

To open up a dialogue, connect more and block less, start listening to your own questions. And before you ask your questions, get clear on the intention that is driving them.