3 Reasons Not to Ask Questions

by Quentin Schultze

Contrary to common sense, asking questions isn’t always the best way to improve mutual understanding in our communication. Here’s why:

#1 When we ask a question we set the agenda. We tell the other person what we want to know about and what he or she should speak about. What if the other person wants to talk about something else?

#2 Questions are frequently interpreted as implied criticism. For instance, starting a conversation with a question like “What have you been up to?” can be interpreted as “Why haven’t you been doing something else?” or even “You’re wasting your time.” When this happens, the other person can become defensive.

#3 Questions can interrupt the natural flow of conversation. It’s not easy to ask questions that  maintain the rhythm of dialogue.

These three issues aren’t reasons to avoid asking any questions. Instead they should remind us that a question isn’t always the best way to deepen mutual understanding.

Often a warm smile, some nonverbal assent (such as modestly shaking your head up and down), or short verbal expression of understanding (“I see.”) will better move along the conversation.

What do you think about asking questions?

— Quin Schultze   Twitter: @quentinschultze

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