asking the right questions

I have some writer’s block, except that I am not a writer. I am just a wanna-be blogger. I have nothing valuable to share and I am struggling to develop new posts. It’s okayyyy. This year, so far, has all been about work. I work in Ads. Plain old Ads. Serving Infra and Ads metrics does keep me busy throughout the week. Weekend perishes in the blink of an eye. And the grind continues. I used to have so many thoughts as a teenager and in my early 20s. I used to ask a lot of questions to myself and others. I was pretty sick like that. I was pathetically curious. But that has faded away. Now, I ask fewer questions. I have finally reached a stage of acceptance. I am saying it-is-what-it-is to all messed up things. I wouldn’t say I like it. Every adult, at some point in their life, transitions into this practical version and becomes sensitive to taking risks. They stop being aspirational. I might have reached that stage.

The most important skill I learned at my day job is asking the right questions. So, since I am feeling this mental block – I decided to write a post about how to ask better questions. Writing this post took a while, but I hope it helps anyone reading this. 

Caution: The word “question” is used an absolute number of times below. You have been warned. 

Communication is super-critical for career growth. It can make or break careers. You might be highly skilled, but it’s a big blocker for moving to the next level if you can’t communicate your findings. In my 2+ years working in the industry, I have learned that you should do everything possible to keep your curiosity alive. A healthy way to stay curious is to keep asking questions.

There are broadly two categories of questions – first, questions to learn about a concept/theory/idea, and second, questions to learn more about the other person. Asking questions is an essential step in generating new ideas and fostering relationships. Asking questions shows the other person that you value them and their answers – you wouldn’t ask critical questions to anybody. It requires a certain amount of trust and bond. 

Tone matters a lot when asking questions. Be empathic. Don’t judge. Listen and try to cross-question/answer in a supportive way instead of sounding arrogant or down-putting. Use words related to value when answering questions. For example, your contribution to project x was super impactful; you have raised the stakes for your level. 

It’s scary to ask questions as an adult because it can be intimidating. In addition, the answers may be something other than what you want to hear. So, prepare, prepare, and prepare. Be ready with questions. Be relevant. Be bold, and don’t shy away from going off-script. Asking Physics questions to a Chemistry major is not allowed. Instead, ask questions that come from their base of knowledge. Take pauses between questions. Let them think. A lot of exciting things come out of these long pauses. 

I want to summarize the post by giving some broad tips. First, be present when talking to someone. Listen carefully. Second, Be spontaneous. Build on other people’s ideas. Third, be calm and passionate when talking about your field of expertise. Finally, lead with energy, commitment, and confidence when discussing your initiatives.

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