Asking Questions versus Telling Answers


It was a simple question, but six months later the words still formed how the young leader processed life. On a walk with my son, he related that he was still processing a question I asked him six months earlier. Note to self: Questions impact more than telling.

Sometimes I want to be the knowledge expert, the “go-to” guy to solve and fix problems rather than a guide who leads others to discover answers for themselves. During recent meetings with our Western Europe leadership, I was reminded of the value of asking questions versus telling answers.  Paul Duncan modeled this by leading us through an exercise.  One group brainstormed on the disadvantages of telling while the second group wrote down the advantages of asking.  Here are our answers below:

asking vs telling

What would you add to the lists? What are the advantages of asking?  What are more disadvantages of telling?

If you are interested in this topic, my friend Bob Tiede has a blog called Leading with Questions.

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About Steve Morgan

I work in Global Leadership Development with Cru with my wife, Terry. We have been married 30 years and have 4 grown children. We have a Masters in Global Leadership together through Azusa Pacific University. I generally write about 5 “L’s: Living Well, Loving Deeply, Learning Continuously, Leading Courageously and Leaving a Legacy. I occasionally write about Laughing Loudly. Subscribe on the right side to receive an email whenever there is a new post. I invite you to leave your comments so we can dialogue on the various topics and learn from each other. If you are new to the site, you might start with looking at some of the top posts or doing a search on the right side bar for one of the 5 “L’s” that interest you. Or you can view the blog archives for topics. Photo Credit: sarahjoellephotography.com
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3 Responses to Asking Questions versus Telling Answers

  1. Tom Bolton says:

    Reblogged this on Hopeful and commented:
    Great observations by Mr. Morgan. I keep reminding myself to ask more and tell less.

  2. Esme Carl says:

    In my job as a school guidance counsellor I use asking questions a lot. I suppose it becomes second nature to also address issues that arise in marriage from that perspective in an attempt to resolve them and also to not jump to conclusions, giving the other person the opportunity to share his heart, thoughts, opinions, etcetera, which I believe leads to understanding and intimacy. The problem is that questions are met with much resistance and outright defiance. Even everyday, typical questions (sometimes to clarify understanding, showing interest in his day and doings, finding out about arrangements made…..) expected to be found in marriage are met with the same reaction, and I end up being accused of probing, digging, counselling, and being controlling, and that I am the Spanish Inquisition. I cannot communicate in statements, nor do I think I should be expected to, but asking questions is a big no-no. The result is a huge communication problem where most of the time I just agree for the sake of keeping the peace, and no issues ever get resolved.

    • Steve Morgan says:

      Thanks so much for reading and for your courage to be vulnerable. As a guidance counselor, you do know the value of questions. I don’t have a whole lot of context for what you are experiencing with asking questions in your marriage, so I am hesitant to provide answers based on my own experience. If you would, permit me to ask a few questions for your own self reflection:
      How do you do at listening with empathy? (Asking questions is a small part of the solution. People have said that God gave us one mouth and two ears, so we should listen twice as much as speak.)
      What is your heart motive in asking questions? (I learned the skill of asking questions in coaching some time ago, but in my heart, I always figured that I could fix the problem or person better than they could themselves. So my questions were aimed at figuring out how to fix. I learned that the responsibility to fix and discover is the other person, not me and that freed me up to listen better.)
      Could this area your are experiencing conflict be a symptom of another or bigger issue?
      Do you need a plan to grow in an area? (When I get stuck I remember what a friend advised me-don’t hold grudges, do things that create warmth in the relationship, and work on yourself.)
      Who can help you? (friends, counselor,etc).
      How could you use this opportunity to depend more on God and rely on His power to change you?

      Thanks again for sharing. I hope these questions spark some thoughts and help you discover a way forward for the new year. Don’t lose hope.

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