The Power of Questions

Most of us don’t ask enough questions of our loved ones. The reasons are many; for some, it’s awkward, you don’t want to stir up any issues, and it keeps us in the safe harbor of seeing no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil. We’ve embraced the political statement, “ Don’t ask, don’t tell.”  Some people are apathetic and don’t care enough to ask questions. Others are selfish and never think to ask others questions, and they only talk about themselves. Some are fearful that they’ll be perceived as rude.  Social media has also influenced our lack of questioning.

People can improve their emotional intelligence by asking questions. In the 1970s, research suggested that conversations had two goals:  learning (information exchange)or liking.

(impression management) Harvard colleagues studied thousands of discussions either between online or in-person speed dating. Some were told to ask at least nine questions in 15 minutes, and others were told to ask no more than four in 15 minutes. They found that the individuals who asked many questions were more well-liked than those only asking four, and the speed daters that asked more questions were more likely to go on a second date. The number of questions wasn’t the only factor; the type, tone, sequence, and framing also matter. They found that people who interacted with someone who asked several questions felt respected, heard, and connected. Asking a question tells the partner that you care enough to learn and want to understand. Essentially, we’re saying the person is important.

Questions create connections, and they open the door to emotional intimacy. They invite people in when asked with a spirit of curiosity and empathy.

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Lisa May is the Executive Director of South Florida for Live the Life South. Live the Life exists to strengthen marriages and families through healthy relationship education beginning in middle school through senior adults. For information visit