I want to start this post with some questions:
– What is already working well in your life (personal and/or professional)?
– What is causing it to work well?
– What can you do to make things be even better?
I have been asking myself these questions for almost 10 years now to find answers and new ways to progress in my life.
But …. Why am I asking you these questions?
Your brain is wired to answer any questions you ask. It doesn’t matter the question, it’ll find an answer. So it’s important to ask powerful questions that will help you move forwards, and prevent you from feeling stuck or hopeless.
How can you make sure the questions you ask are valuable and will help you live the life you want? THINK CRITICALLY.
Critical thinking is crucial not only for your professional life but also your personal life. What do you want to study? What is your next step in your career? Who do you want to share your life with? What do you want to do in your spare time? You name it!
As you may have gathered already it is not only about the question made, but also the answer provided. This is critical thinking: you make an inquiry, actively listen, analyse the answer and come to a conclusion. Inquiring and listening are both equally important. When we pose a question we need to listen and carefully analyse the different answers to form our own judgement. If we don’t do this, we’ll be subject to someone else’s views.
But it is not all that easy.
Biases are mental shortcuts that the brain makes when we are making decisions, and these can prevent us from making the correct choice.
The challenge is that there are about 200 types of cognitive biases!
One example is the bandwagon effect, that is when someone uptakes the beliefs and ideas that have already been adopted by others. This increases if more people adopt those ideas.
Have you ever been in this situation? I for sure have!
Another common one is the confirmation bias, where one looks for information that agrees with ones way of thinking. Journalists use this sometimes to support their story.
How are you finding the post so far?
How much are you enjoying reading this post?
Both questions have the same objective “understand the readers’ experience”. Both questions are open-ended, that is, you could answer anything you like beyond yes/no.
However, the second question was framed. I want to think that you are enjoying the post so I ask the question in such a way that you can only answer positive things about it. Intentionally in this case, but often the person asking the question doesn’t realise it so the answers available are limited, potentially missing out on opportunities to improve.
There is a concept called Humble Inquiry which consists on asking questions you don’t already have an answer to and listening to what the other person has to say as opposed to leading questions to get the other person to confirm what you are thinking or assume.
It is grounded on genuine curiosity. This is applicable for both a junior person in a company but also, and most importantly, those senior managers that are more experienced.
It is a fantastic way to build trust with others by asking instead of telling them what to do. You build your relationships with those around you by showing interest and curiosity in them and what they have to offer.
You can make others feel valued and respected by you simply by genuinely asking questions such as:
“Can you help me understand why…?”
“Can you think of the risks associated with …?”
But this comes with a price.
You need to be okay with showing your vulnerability, accept you don’t know everything and that you temporarily depend on others. On the other hand, the quality of the ideas and the level of collaboration improves, and the mutual respect and trust grows too. It’s up to you to work out the benefit/risk balance.
Through the power of critical thinking you can challenge assumptions, ask searching questions, break the rules, deliberately adopt a different point of view… and if you use it together with humble inquiry, those around you will join you in your quest. I hope you agree when I say there is nothing more powerful than having people supporting you to help you reach your goals.
Before I finish, I have one more question for you. I just want to genuinely ask you, what did you find most interesting about this post?
Please, leave your answer in the comment box!