On questions

“…So now you’re getting at an insight that very few people actually get at, which is that in every question hides an argument, and in that argument also hints at a set of goals and values that the questioner is trying to accomplish.

One of the most powerful things you can do in a conversation is asking the right kinds of questions that can lead you down the side of the road that takes you toward your destination. And that begins with first understanding what your objectives and goals are, and not taking your eyes off them while you’re conversing with someone else. Lawyers know this very well, when they plan their questions for cross examinations. They make sure not to derail from the main objective; every question they ask has an intent towards it. Debaters are also taught to do this well. I used to compete in debate and coach it for several years, and one of the things we would learn and teach a lot is about what questions you ask and therefore what goal it achieved and whether that answer would achieve it most effectively than asking any other potential question. Some questions can completely change and steer the conversation towards a totally different outcome than if you had either never asked it, or if you had asked something that was even just slightly different in words.

So, finding and framing the right questions is huge in determining the outcomes of your goals.

The second part also of realizing the arguments within questions is that sometimes, you can give an even better reply to someone’s question than answering the question itself.

Because if you can correctly guess at the objective hidden within the argument of their question, and directly answer that instead, then you’ll have done your listener an even bigger favor than just giving them the answer to their question, which may not even be the right question.

Sometimes their question is framed such that it’s based on a faulty premise or claim within the argument, but does link to a good set of values and goals that the argument wants to impact. In which case, actually, answering the question would do some harm in validating their faulty premise, as you wound up entertaining it, while going for their goals over their question would perhaps show them how the question was wrongly framed and also, shed insight on their real goals. That the question was just a means towards an end, and you not only showed them what that end was, in case they weren’t aware, but you also helped them get closer to their goals, which is all they really want.

When you get into a good pattern of doing this repeatedly, providing better answers than a direct answer to people’s questions, that’s when a lot of things can start to happen 1. You really Teach them a whole lot about what they are looking for and what they thought they were looking for without ever having invalidated their thoughts, and 2. People start to come to you with better framed questions and better respect for your time.”

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