A theme popped up this past week when I was teaching classes on Strengths-based Leadership and running meetings that don’t suck. The class discussions led me to pull out Socratic questioning information in all three classes. This was not planned. Then I noticed the topic of questions coming up in my personal life too. Several times I found myself discussing the importance of asking questions when having tough conversations or sharing opinions with friends or family. I took this as a sign. Questions – that is what I need to write about. So, welcome to a six-part series on the importance of asking questions.


Imagine this … you are sitting in a meeting talking about the third quarter budget and a coworker brings up annual performance appraisals. What? You wonder, “What do our reviews have to do with our budget?” Your coworker’s brain has either linked budget and reviews and you don’t understand how, or your coworker’s brain has hopped on an entirely different train. How do you know? Good question, but let’s hold that thought for a moment.

Have you ever found yourself feeling deep down that it wasn’t the right time or place to bring something up, yet words fell out of your mouth? As you looked around you saw faces of confusion and irritation because your brain linked two things that appeared seemingly unrelated to everyone else, or your brain hopped on an entirely different train.

These are precisely the times we need to check if our communication is connected to what is going on. Think of it as an adult game of connect the dots to connect thoughts. Do it by asking a question. Here are seven different ways to ask:

            1. Are you saying that because …?
            2. How does this move the conversation forward?
            3. Why is this important to share right now?
            4. Can you provide an example of how that is connected to what is being discussed?
            5. How does this support today’s objective?
            6. Why do you say/ask that?
            7. How does what you are saying relate to the problem on the table?

We become better contributors and help others do the same when we check for connection. Why? Questions mean we vet thoughts for relevancy. We either discover that a connection does not exist, or we realize rephrasing the message brings better understanding (and we and/or they get to save face … which means better working relationships … which means better solutions … which means better productivity … and I could go on, but I won’t. [You’re welcome by the way.]).

Now, let’s say you find yourself in this situation. Comment below with the question you would you ask to connect the dots.

You’re having a conversation with someone you know well. You share that you are thinking of looking for employment at a company that offers a more flexible work schedule. They respond with, “I wouldn’t even think of leaving my position right now.”

(If you liked this topic, check this and this out!)