The power of a question

(Readin’ time: 1m 17s)

“And mad boy grips the microphone, with a fistful of steel!
With a fistful of steel!
(‘Cause I know the power of the question!)
With a fistful of steel!
With a fistful of steel!
(And I won’t stop, ’cause I know the power of the question!)”
— “Fistful of Steel”, Rage Against the Machine

The power of the question!

If there’s one question that might be the most powerful tool in your arsenal, it’s “Why?”

It’s the most challenging of the open-ended questions you can ask because it implicitly interrogates motivation or judgement rather than process or timing. What, When, Who, or How questions are useful, but they don’t challenge motivation as directly as Why does.

Why reveals thinking and motive.

Asking Why signals that you need to be speaking with those at your client who actually understand Why. If you’re speaking with someone who only understands What and How, your Why questions will reveal this pretty quickly. If you’re speaking with someone who does understand Why but sees you as someone who only needs to understand What and How, then you’ll figure that out too.

Why reveals status.

Asking Why forces thinking and reflection. If that thinking is a can that has been kicked down the road, you’ll discover this.

Why reveals the sophistication level of a decision.

Why is a powerful question. It’s not always the right question for every situation, and in situations where motives, status, and the sophistication level of your client’s thinking are uncertain it’s not necessarily the best first question.

It can be abrupt to start with Why.

But Why does get straight to the critical issues. It’s powerful and direct.

-P

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