Learning to Ask the Right Questions

One of the most important skills you will ever learn in your life is learning which questions to ask and when to ask them. You will never learn how to do much of anything in your life if you do not learn how to ask questions and not only that, but to question the answers you get in return.

For instance, "I want to learn about shamanism," is not a question. It is a statement. "Teach me about shamanism," is also not a question. It is a command, even if you add the word please. Think about what you really want to ask. "Can you teach me about shamanism?" Ok, you're getting closer to the question you really want answered. "Will you teach me about shamanism?" Even closer, but the topic at hand is a large one. Look for where you actually want to start learning. Good questions to start working with are "What makes shamanism different from other paths?" or perhaps, "What is the first thing I should learn to start my journey of learning about shamanism?" These last two questions are good questions because they are specific and give the person you are talking with an idea of what you are actually interested in learning.

Here's another example. I want to learn how to bake bread. First of all I find someone that knows how (the right person). Then I wait until they have the time to help me and a place ready to show me how to bake bread. I try to read up a little ahead of time if I can and show up well rested and ready to learn hopefully without any preconceptions (the right time). Now I could ask them what the chemical structure of bread is, or why it browns when it bakes or what type of butter to use on it, but none of these are very good questions to help me towards my goal of learning how to bake bread. True it might be useful information, but I can always learn the answers to those questions later once I have learned the basics. So my first questions are, "What are the ingredients we use?" and "How do we start?" two specific and useful questions.

A good question asked at the right time to the right person helps the person answering it almost as much as it helps the person asking it. If the person you are asking questions to has no idea of your level of knowledge of the subject or your specific area of interest at the moment they cannot help you nearly as well as they could if they knew these things. Good questions are one way of helping a person understand what you want to know and what level of difficulty you want it explained at.

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