“It is better to know some of the questions than to know all of the answers.”
~James Thurber

We so often want to know. We want to know the final answer. We want to know the truth. We want to know as much as we can. “Knowledge is power,” we’ve heard over and over, so we revere answers, we search for answers, and we sometimes hide answers from others.

I agree that knowledge is important and that answers can shed light, but I’ve found that questions – especially strong, powerful, enlightening questions – can often yield more power and truth than answers. When we ask questions we open up to opportunities. When we ask questions we consider other possibilities. When we ask questions we keep ourselves from staying stuck in the answers we already have, to find the answers we may never have considered could exist.

Recently a client seemed stuck in her answers. She faced a challenge at work and, try as we might to discuss it and look at it from different perspectives, she kept coming back to what she knew and the answers she had already determined. I finally had to stop her, mid-sentence, and call her on her near-addiction to her answers.

“I hear you saying, ‘I know already how it will turn out,'” I offered. “You are offering things you know as fact and truth, and I invite you to step back to ask a few more questions to dig a bit deeper.”

My client fell silent, and we sat there in silence for what seemed like forever. When she finally spoke it was to ask me a few questions, and to ask me to ask her a few more. And together we found the questions that could yield us different answers. Questions such as: “What’s another option?” “What else could be true?” “How can I see this differently?” “Who can I get to help me see this differently (and how might they see it)?” and “What’s in it for me to keep seeing it this way? What’s in it for me to see it differently?”

Inventions result from well-asked questions. As do solutions to long-standing problems and resolution to disagreements and conflict. Certainty about an answer or situation can block our ability to see another possibility. A few strong, directed questions can yield us so much.

When you feel yourself pulled to answers, ask questions instead.

Where do you need to ask more questions? What are the questions you need to ask?
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