Home Personal DevelopmentAreas of Life Questions: The Swiss Army Knife Of Great Communication

Questions: The Swiss Army Knife Of Great Communication

For any handyman who prides themselves on making improvements around the house, there are a wide variety of tools that they can call upon to get dissimilar jobs done. Although we don’t consciously recognize as much, the ways in which we communicate, with others and ourselves, very much resemble these jack-of-all-trades individuals. Whereas Mr. Fixit relies upon a hammer and drill, however, each and every one of us has a communication toolbox containing capacities such as voice, vocabulary, and body language.

While the hardware tools listed above, and others such as a wrench and saw, allow the handyman to most effectively accomplish specific tasks, there’s not a single instrument that offers him the flexibility of a Swiss Army knife. Likewise, we too have access to a communication skill that resembles the trusty do-it-all apparatus coming in the form of inquisitive questioning. Just as Mr. Fixit can conveniently call upon his versatile tool to assist him in nearly any project, we can rely upon everything from Microsoft Teams for Business, Slack, confidence, common knowledge, social etiquette, and questions to help us achieve almost all of our communication goals. It’s for this reason that questions are in fact the Swiss Army knife of great communication.

The Dynamic & Diverse Nature of Communication:

An image shows a couple sitting inside a coffee shop having a conversations and smiling at one another. The image represents the idea that we can improve our relationships by skillfully asking questions.Until we really contemplate the many dynamic and diverse ways humans communicate, it’s easy to assume that we only interact with a single static and unchanging communicative approach. This, however, couldn’t be further from the truth as we rely upon what are oftentimes contradictory communication tactics when taking on different social roles such as an employee, a significant other, a parent, and a friend. Additionally, depending upon the given situation, our goals for interacting with others do vary. For example, it’s certainly not far-fetched to say that many individuals communicate to express emotion, seek information, provide guidance and persuade others all in the same day.

When we combine the environmental factors with our reasons for communicating, it becomes clear to see how one’s personality, as well as their situationally dependent rhetorical and relational strategies, continuously changes and more closely resemble Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde than it does the solidly fixed individuals they assume themselves to be. While the need to act in a manner that’s appropriate for the circumstances is never going to change, it’s certain that we can rely upon questions to help us achieve our interpersonal and intrapersonal communication goals regardless of the situation we find ourselves in. It’s for this reason that the late great German mathematician George Cantor proclaimed:

The art of proposing a question must be held of higher value than solving it.”

Skillfully Using Questions when Communicating with Others:

The functional versatility that makes questions the Swiss Army knife of great communication is most apparent to see by examining our interactions with others. Despite the fact that interpersonal communication, which can be defined as the exchanging of information between two or more people, comes in many different shapes and forms, there’s little doubt that skillfully constructed questions can help us in nearly all of them. While we’ll illuminate seven of the most advantageous ways here, it should be pointed out that this list only scratches the surface of questions’ far-reaching power:

Increase Knowledge:

The most obvious reason that we should ask more questions when communicating with others is that doing so allows us to increase our knowledge and understanding of a seemingly endless number of topics. In fact, since all of us have a uniquely individualized set of life experiences, worldviews, talents, and insights, each and every person we interact with offers us a chance to learn and grow. Let’s take a new business owner for example. They might want to establish a secure internal communication system for all their employees to discuss work. However, in order to do that, they would require knowledge about different privacy aspects like encryption and data protection. After all, they cannot just leave the confidential business for hackers to scoop up whenever they like. Hence, to protect the privacy of exchanged data, the business owner would need to know about options like skyecc, which he cannot without asking any questions in the first place.

Whether we want to increase our knowledge about our career, health, finances, relationships or other personal interests, it’s certain that skillful questioning can incomparably improve our understanding. It’s for this reason that the late great American novelist Thomas Berger once told us:

The are and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.”

Create Meaningful Connections:

An image shows 10 to 12 young people sitting around a bonfire smiling as they are talking. One of the many ways skillfully asking questions helps us when communicating with others is by helping us form meaningful connections.When personal development legend Dale Carnegie released his eternally relevant best-selling book How to Win Friends and Influence People in 1936, he laid out a variety of communication strategies that can be used to create more meaningful relationships with others. While all of Carnegie’s advice is valuable, there is perhaps not a single approach that can help us more than to become genuinely interested in other people. By inquisitively making the effort to learn about the lives and interests of the people we cross paths with, it’s certain that we can quickly win people to our side. Of course, it’s important to point out that to be successful with this approach, our interest, and questions, will have to be authentic. Carnegie famously wrote:

You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Empathetically Gain Understanding:

Whether it’s at work, home or in our communities, one of the most powerful ways questions can improve our communication is by allowing us to gain an empathetic understanding of others. There’s good reason that empathy has recently become a trendy topic amongst relationship experts and that’s because truly understanding how others think, feel and see the world can help us make decisions with information from multiple perspective. It’s certain that when we ask questions with empathy, and are given the rare opportunity to step into another’s shoes, we’ll gain valuable insights that can help us improve our relationships and solve a wide variety of problems. Stephen Covey, the celebrated author of the iconic self-help book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, tells us:

When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.”

Solicit Feedback to Improve Yourself:

An image shows the torso of a man who's holding a pen in his hand, looking as if he's going to write, while he is talking to another individual. This image represents the idea that we can gain valuable feedback by asking questions of others.One specific way that we can use the power of empathy to our advantage is to solicit feedback about ourselves. It’s because our perspective of ourselves is limited in nature, and also because we should unceasingly strive to maximize our potential, that asking other for their honest assessment of our performance as a professional and a person can be such a powerful personal development tool. While asking family members, work colleagues and peers for feedback face-to-face can help us discover ways we can transform our lives, we’ll most often be able to gather greater insights by allowing them to anonymously fill out evaluation forms. It’s important to note that although we may receive some hurtful criticism, it’s imperative not to take it as a personal attack but rather accept it graciously before fully utilizing it as a tool for growth. Ken Blanchard, the highly accomplished author of The One Minute Manager, thinks soliciting feedback is so important that he proclaims:

Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”

Get Help in Times of Need:

There are inevitably times in each of our lives when we find ourselves in less-than-ideal situations that could be greatly improved by a few helping hands. Regardless of if this needs to call upon another arises because of psychical, mental, or emotional issues, we won’t receive the assistance we desire unless we ask. Despite the fact that many of us don’t reach out to others for help, thinking we’ll be an inconvenience to them, the world’s most successful individuals all come to realize that they can’t do everything on their own and that asking others for help isn’t a weakness like we perceive it to be but rather one of their greatest communication skills. The 44th President of The United States Barack Obama tells us:

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and then allows you to learn something new.”

Facilitate Healthy Dialogue & Debate:

An image shows 5 business people working together in meeting room. The boss in the picture has his hands raised and looks like he is asking questions of his employees.Despite the fact that most of us consciously avoid altercations and arguments with others, there’s little doubt that allowing dissimilar views to be respectfully shared in healthy dialogue and debate can be greatly beneficial for all parties involved. To facilitate constructive conversations with thought-provoking questions can be especially advantageous in professional environments where employees work in teams built of unique individuals who bring their own skill sets and perspectives to the table. This means that for those of you who hold professional leadership positions, it’s certain that you can improve your products and services, while also cultivating a culture of innovation, by facilitating healthy dialogue and debate with questions. The highly accomplished English businesswoman Margaret Heffernan tells us:

For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.”

Encourage Others to Positively Transform Themselves:

One of the most valuable yet forgotten ways that we can use questions when communicate with others can be found in our abilities to lead others to important self-discovers and influence them to positively transform their lives. By strategically asking mind-expanding questions such as ‘Where would you like to be in 10 years?’ and ‘How can you get there?’, each and everyone of us has the opportunity to help our children, friends and peers become the best people they can be. American novelist and journalist Chuck Palahniuk reminds us:

If you can change the way people think. The way they see themselves. The way they see the world. If you do that, you can change the way people live their lives. That’s the only lasting thing you can create.”

Enriching Ourselves with Conscious Questions:

An image shows a woman sitting on the cliff of a bluff as the sun sets over a river and forest. This image represents the idea that we can enrich our lives by asking ourselves conscious questions.Although the transformative power of skillfully asking questions is easiest to recognize when consider our interactions with others, this is certainly not the only way that we can use them in a advantageous way. In fact, there may not be a single practice that promotes life-affirming growth more so than asking ourselves conscious questions. It’s both because each and everyone of us partakes in intrapersonal communication, that is communication with oneself, and also because few of us are truly in control of our internal dialogue that consciously asking ourselves questions can be such an enriching activity. Moreover, the transformational power of this practice comes into greater focus when considering how we’ve evolved in ways that cause us to naturally prioritize safety, sexual reproduction and enhanced preservation. Unfortunately, these inborn inclinations are what creates the negativity bias that greatly limits our subjective well-being. Maddy Malhotra, author of How to Build Self-Esteem and Be Confident, tells us:

Either you must control your thoughts or the outside forces will control them and be warned that the outside forces usually consist of fears, worries and doubts.”

By making the commitment to spend just 5 to 10 minutes each day in a state of meditative contemplation, during which you reflect upon a set of predetermined questions, it’s certain that you can move yourself towards the achievement of your goals, find innovative solutions to problems you’re facing and increase your levels of happiness by transforming your limiting thoughts, behaviors, emotions and beliefs. Additionally, the practice of asking yourself conscious questions undoubtedly can lead to greater self-knowledge, assist in the cultivation of positive personal qualities and help you nourish your relationship with yourself. While it’ll be best to construct your own conscious questions, that are dependent upon where you are in life and where you want to go, a few you may want to consider are ‘Who am I?’, ‘What am I grateful for?’, ‘What do I want in life?’ and ‘How can I help the greater good?’. Remember, it’s because the power of our minds, which can be put to better use with this practice, that the immortalized German theologian Meister Eckhart once proclaimed:

What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action.”

Getting More Out of Life by Asking More Questions:

An image is shown of a poster that reads 'Ask More Questions'. This image represents the idea that asking questions can help us in relationships and when communicating with others.Despite the fact that each of us comes from different backgrounds and finds ourselves with a unique set of life circumstances, we all have relationships that are built upon our ability to communicate. Because much of our happiness, success and fulfillment results directly from the ways in which we interact with others and ourselves, we’d be foolish not to strive to become great communicators. While asking questions alone can’t command the attention of others like raising your voice or poetically speaking with rhythmic language, it’s certain that skillful questioning can help us achieve nearly all of our relationship goals. It’s for this reason that self-help legend Tony Robbins tells us:

Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.”

To add the life-affirming skill of asking questions to your communication toolbox, it’ll be important to examine your life, your relationships with others and your vision for your future. Because no two people’s situations are the same, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll want to use the power of questions in the exact same way. Fortunately, because questions are the Swiss Army knife of great communication, we can tailor our curiosity and inquisitiveness to suit our needs. Although the longterm goal should be to become a highly competent questioner, it’s important to realize that we’ll need to persistently work at developing the skills. Regardless of where we find ourselves today, it’s always smart to heed the advice of Albert Einstein. The iconic German physicist whom many consider to be the most intelligent man to every walk the earth once told us:

The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has it’s own reason for existing.”

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