Thursday, 27 January 2011

asking questions

Middle Cove, NF: Beach Rocks

There's a trick to asking questions, you have to ask the right ones. I've seen discussions go on forever because someone didn't do this, or didn't frame the question in a clear and concise manner. This of course led to a circular discussion which usually dissolved into a slag fest.

Many moons ago in another lifetime as part of school classes I took a course on how to deal with the public. It was a course based on customer service and how not to piss people off, and yes I am sure there are those of you sniggering at this but really I did learn a few things and I do occasionally put them to use.

It's all about language and how you use it.  The difference between the statements "When you do X, you make me feel..." vs "When this happens I feel..."  The same idea two totally different triggers.

In a discussion with many people from many backgrounds and educations as well as languages one needs to ask the right questions in just the right way. Not so easy sometimes especially if the person asking the question is emotionally invested and wants to hear a specific answer.

I like to ask questions, I'm the curious type. Even though it seems that asking questions gets you into trouble, especially if you ask the awkward white elephant in the room sort of questions. I rather enjoy doing this from time to time because I think it's good to shake the tree.  Sometimes you need to shake things up to remind people that there is a bigger picture out there and it's not quite so insular as they might think.

I'm not really speaking about anything specific here, just observations made over the years of being on many forums and many email lists and in many many classrooms.

I'm interested in the choices that get made..."why did you use that colour paint on that scroll?" , "Why are all the new chapter gifts NO Trade?" , "Why is it that in one of the richest countries in the world over 43 million people live below the poverty line?" and so on...

I have asked many many questions over the years and to my surprise have started a ball rolling that either ended up with me saying fuck it, you're all a bunch of stubborn twits and I don't want to play with you any more, to oh my goodness you mean they actually listened and changed their minds?

Learning to ask the RIGHT questions is the key. Be clear, don't use too many examples, don't clog down the ultimate subject by adding a billion details.  ( People don't care about the details until the big picture becomes clear)

Questions are good, you know. They can bring down entire governments or help to free prisoners. They can untangle a mess of lies and suspicion or help to clear up a single point from many points of view. They can tell you where the bathroom is. People may not always like the answers they get and of course people may also not like the questions that are being asked but in the end it doesn't really matter. Asking questions is a good thing and sometimes I think we should do it a whole lot more often than we do.

Ask questions, you'll be surprised at what happens when you do.

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