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How to Enhance Your Business—and Life—with Questions

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

Let’s face it, conversations are the currency of life. Communication advances ideas to projects to actions to success. It also makes or breaks relationships. Often, great conversations start with a question.

As I fondly remember my deceased dad’s birthday this month, one memory that rises to the top is that he was the ultimate questioner. He had a transcendent ability to ask great questions and engage everyone from friends to strangers.

While serving in the military dad was compelled to learn about fellow soldiers. Where were they from? Did they leave family back home? What helps get them out of bed and serve? What’s the first thing they’ll do when they return? No wonder my dad made many friends in the Army and National Guard.

Dad’s curiosity made asking questions easy. He always wanted to know more. At home, he devoured our encyclopedias. When dad visited me, he raced for my scrapbooks and asked questions galore about what he saw. Always eager to learn.

I think I inherited his curiosity and ability to ask questions. Most recently in Florida at Discovery Cove, as our trainer prepared us to swim with the dolphins, he asked if anyone had questions. Nobody raised their hand. So, I raised my hand with many questions for the trainer. He smiled broadly. Those questions told him I was interested in him and what he did—and that he and his work mattered.

When at conference tables, I’m often the one who begins conversations—with questions. In no time the entire table is engaged. We’re learning and having fun.

Here are my tips for asking questions and starting conversations:

  • The answer is always “no” unless you ask.

  • Be willing to accept the answer.

  • Don’t overdo it. (Read facial expressions and body language).

  • Listen with every fiber in your body. That’s how you grow—and show others you care.

  • Ask now, or forever hold your regrets.

Questions are the foundation of Harvey McKay’s successful business (see my February blog).

Need a few question starters? Here’s 57—for just about any situation:

“Why and how are words so important that they cannot be too often used.” — Napoleon


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