Building Life with Questions
Asking good questions not only gets answers but can help build relationships. Sharing answers to tough questions is what community is all about. www.buildinglife.net
Do You Have Any Questions?
Last week the Building Life column talked about a frequent disparity between how individuals may feel about themselves and what others believe about them based on their appearances. Why do some people reach their goals but believe they are lucky rather than smart? Why are some people successful and yet think they are frauds?
Your comments and e-mails suggested that, in some cases, these people are hesitant to ask for help, ask questions, because they do not want to confirm what they believe to be true: “I am not good/smart/successful...I just look that way.” While asking questions may seem automatic for most of us; for others it can be embarrassing or an admission of failure.
Asking questions is the quickest and most reliable way to get information. Technology has provided all of us with fast and anonymous inquiry through websites like Ask Eric, Kids Connect and Virtual Reference Desk. Who is most likely to ask questions on these sites?
A study done by Dr. R. David Lankes, director of Information Institute of Syracuse, looked at the current state of digital reference use in primary and secondary education. It looks like the percentage of questioners is fairly evenly distributed among the education levels, but two things caught my attention in the research. First, gender distribution among the KidsConnect users revealed a notable 56 percent of online female questioners compared with 32 percent male (12 percent gender not known).
One hypothesis for this division is that boys are more likely to ask questions in front of others while girls are reluctant to do so.
I’m curious about what readers think about this...particularly in light of the Imposter Phenomenon. Second, science, on all of the virtual sites, comprised the bulk of questions asked with social studies not far behind. Again, I’d like to know if readers think this tracks with their experiences.
When questions are between people, face to face or in a group, the dynamics change. Questions then are not just information based, but should be framed to encourage the integrity of the individual and build the relationship. Two important aspects of questioning are helpful in creating this.
Recognizing the other’s ownership of knowledge is a good start.
For example, a parent asking his/her child, “How is your homework coming along?” rather than, “Did you do your homework yet?” will go a long way in helping kids recognize their responsibility for their own success. Not focusing on failure in a question is critical to avoiding a hostile response and to sustaining a relationship. “Why did you fail this?” or “Why did you not pick me up on time?” feels accusatory and puts a person on the defense. Instead, questions that set the stage for people to come up with their own candid answers are not only empowering but partnership building. “What do you think about this grade?” or “How can we arrange this better next time?” will not only get better results but better relationships.
What do you think?