Be Wise — Ask Questions

I saw a very interesting quote from Naguib Mahfouz the other day. If you don’t know Mr. Mahfouz, he was an Egyptian novelist who won the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature. But that’s not what’s important here; the quote is…

“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.”

Dynamic communication skills are one of the keys to success that I discuss in Straight Talk for Success. If you want to become a dynamic communicator, you need to develop your skills in three areas: Conversation, Writing and Presenting.

You can improve your skills in all three of these areas by learning to ask the right questions. Questions are powerful. They help you get into the mind of the people with whom you want to communicate.

I‘ve blogged about how asking questions can help you become known as a good conversationalist on several occasions. Questions can also help you become a better writer and presenter.

If you ask the right questions, you will have a better understanding of what information the people who will read your writing or listen to your presentations want and need. As Naguib Mahfouz says, questions help you develop wisdom.

Before you begin to write – or create PowerPoint slides ask yourself some simple questions.

  • “Why do they want to read what I am writing or have to say?”
  • “How much do they know about this subject already?”
  • “What do they want from me – information, a recommendation?”

If you can’t answer these questions, do something really radical — ask. People appreciate it when you ask for their opinion. In my experience, asking clarification questions of the person who asked you to write or present something always pays off. You get the information you need to zoom in on what your audience wants. The people who will read what you write, or listed to what you say, will have their needs met. It’s a win-win.

The common sense point here is simple. Successful people are dynamic communicators. Dynamic communicators are good conversationalists, clear and succinct writers and effective presenters. Asking the right questions can help you become good at all three. The next time you are asked to write something or do a talk, take the time to ask and answer some fundamental questions. You’ll become a better communicator if you do.

That’s my take on the power of questions. What’s yours? Please leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us. As always, thanks for reading.

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