Who has more power, the one who asks the questions or the one who has the answers?
You’re right. It’s the one who asks the questions. But, why?
Now there’s a good question!
- The one who asks the questions will never run out of questions, but the other one will eventually run out of answers.
- If knowledge is power, then asking questions gets the information. Information = knowledge. Therefore, if knowledge is power, then asking questions = power.
- Asking questions gives the other person the impression that you care. “How is the family?” = I care. “How is the new job going?” = I care. “Do you prefer the red car or the blue car?” = I care about your choice of the car you’re going to buy from me. (P.S. I don’t sell cars. It’s just an example of how good salesmanship works.)
- Asking questions can resolve a contentious issue. Example… you are in the middle of an argument with someone (your spouse). She says, “I don’t like the way you cut your toenails.” He responds, “I don’t like the way you bite your toenails.” Is this going somewhere? Does this sound like it could get into a boxing match? What if the conversation went like this… She says, “I don’t like the way you cut your toenails.” And he said, “What is it about the way I cut my toenails that you don’t like?” She could then tell him what she doesn’t like and he could acknowledge that she is entitled to her point of view. End of argument. He has taken the air out of her inflated balloon and avoided that boxing match.
- Asking questions can complete a negotiation. The two sides are at odds about an issue. Let’s say it’s the price of a house. The seller won’t come down in the price and the buyer won’t come up in the price. Instead of arguing with each side or trying to embarrass one side or the other for being unreasonable, what if we asked the following question… To the seller… “Do you consider the buyer to be unreasonable? If you were the buyer, would you feel the same way? Do you think you would be more reasonable? Do you consider yourself reasonable in this situation?” Same questions for the buyer. Then… “If the buyer would be willing to meet you in the middle, would you consider that to be reasonable? What will you do to show them that you too can be reasonable?” What do you suppose would happen then? My guess is, both sides would reach an agreement.
Asking questions is not an exercise in power. Let’s be clear about that. Asking questions empowers the person who is asking the questions by providing tools for success.
And the best thing about it is that it seems like exactly the opposite of exercising power.
It gives the impression of humility.