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Using questions to solve problems

Tool Twitters:


Leaders of big corporations know how to ask a question and get results. Why can’t we parents do the same thing? Here’s how…

On a high school debate team, persuasion happens through fortified logic supported by facts and figures. Most companies work this way, too. You just lay out your logic, present supporting data, and voila—full buy-in is a cinch! … Not. That’s because we’re trained to argue when presented with someone else’s logic. As parents of teenagers can attest, the first reaction to being told what to do is to attack any logic, explanation, or data that isn’t what they want to hear.

Questions provoke answers, however. Ask a teenager “Where are you going?” and you will get an answer. (Most likely, “Out.”) What they don’t do is argue with the question or its assumptions. This is the basis for the Socratic method.

Rather than stating your logic, ask a series of questions chosen to lead your listeners to deduce the logic on their own. This questioning will take longer than lecturing, but you’ll save time in the long run. Your listeners will reach their own conclusion based on your questions. They’ll buy into a conclusion they’ve reached much faster than they will buy in to a conclusion that you just state.

— This article reminds me of the Appreciative Inquiry method. It also reminds me of the power of using the 5 What’s. Ask a series of five questions that dig into the source of a problem using “what” as the begining of the question. This will lead you to a logical solution.

For example: What is the problem with X? It leaks. What causes it to leak? It has a faulty filter. What caused us to put in these type of filters? They were cheap and we got them for a good price. What filter would keep this from leaking? Brand Z. What do we have to do to get brand Z’s filters installed? We would have to go back and buy them all over again… You can continue this line of questioning on and on till you reach a solution that works. Say you can’t afford new filters. Then you would have to ask a series of 5 What’s that helped you resolve that issue as well.

The beauty of logical questioning is that it takes the personality and politics out of the problem solving equation. How have you used question to solve problems in your work or personal life?

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Contact Ron Huxley:

Ron Huxley is available as workshop or Keynote Speaker. Contact him by checking out the "about" page details.


Ron Huxley has been on several TV and Radio Shows as parenting expert. Contact him at ptmembers@aol.com

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