Ways to distinguish yourself – #90 Question the question

Yesterday, I was at a group meeting of one of the mastermind groups that I am a part of. We were discussing a lot of things and the topic moved towards the works of Deepak Chopra. My friend Mukundan recounted watching Deepak Chopra’s interview with Larry King. I believe one of the questions was “How do you think this Universe was born?” or something like that. Rather than answering the question directly, Deepak seemed to have responded questioning the question. He said “Larry, from your question it is assumed that since there is a discussion about the birth of the universe, there will be a discussion on death. The universe was not born or it won’t be dead. It always was and will be there

The discussion topic above is controversial and let me not get deep into it. However, the point to note is that Deepak immediately questioned the question and re-framed to bring a new perspective. This is a common theme with several smart people. They are not tempted to answer every question that you pose to them. They think about the question and see if the question needs to be answered in the first place.

Whenever a question is asked, our general tendency is to respond with an answer. That is the way we are programmed – right from home. The same thing continues at school. The teacher asks a question and the student answers. Go to work and most often, the practice continues. The boss asks a question and you answer. It is this conditioning that makes it hard to act otherwise. There is no where during this journey, people are taught to question the question. This is not part of any curriculum. This is supposed to be one of those self-learning things that you pick up as you grow.

How do you learn to question the question? For some, it comes naturally. Others have to learn it through observation and pracice. Listen to interviews of powerful people on TV, Radio or on the Internet. Focus especially on the free-form Q&A section. See how these people handle questions. Observe those people in leadership positions in your own organization. How do they handle questions?

Here is a trap: There are good questions that someone will ask you and you won’t be comfortable in asnwering them. The escape route for you is to question those questions and avoid answering them. Questioning the question is not to be practiced to avoid responsibility or accountability. You need to have the wisdom and courage to:

a. ask the right questions even when you are uncomfortable with the answer.
b. find what new questions to ask that you may not have been asking.
c. question the wrong questions.