The 7 Sins of Questioning

7 Sins of Questioning

One of the areas that prevents many of us from achieving the results we are capable of is that we obsess about getting better answers – but spend almost no time on asking better questions

Being curious about what someone else thinks is the foundation of asking good questions. And there is such a thing as a bad question: one that is less curiosity driven than others. The right question asked the right way will get you the right outcome. Asked a slightly different way, you’ll wind up with a different response and a different outcome.

David Marquet is a student of leadership and organizational design, former nuclear submarine commander, Author of Amazon #1 Best Seller: Turn the Ship Around!, and The Turn the Ship Around! Workbook, and one of Inc. Magazine’s Top 100 Leadership Speakers.  In his new book Leadership Is Language, Marquet tackles the “7 Sins of Questioning.”

Guess what? I am amazed at how understanding and addressing these sins can make such a difference in my relationships with clients and colleagues. Check out Marquet’s brief video and examine his “7 sins.”

David Marquet Describing the Key to All Questions

The 7 Sins

1 Question stacking
Example: “So, how much testing has been done? I mean, do we really have all the bugs identified? Yeah, I just really think it’s important to know that—are we good to go?” Question stacking is asking the same question repeatedly in different ways or drilling down a logic tree you think defines the problem. Just ask one question once, then button it.

2. Leading questions
Example: “Have you thought about the needs of the client?” A leading question comes from a place of thinking the person is wrong, or that you have the answer.

3. “Why” questions
Example: “Why would you want to do that?” This type of question puts people on the defensive and reveals that you think “that” is a bad idea.

4. Dirty questions
A dirty question is like a leading question but does not overtly carry the message that the other person is wrong—but it does carry subtle and often unconscious biases and anticipates a particular answer. You ask, “Do you have the courage to stand up to them?” That is a dirty question.

5. Binary questions
Examples: “Are we good to launch?” or “Will it work?” Binary questions narrow the available responses to two: yes or no. They are convenient for the one asking, but put the one answering in a bind.

6. Self-affirming questions
Self-affirming questions are often binary questions with a special motivation: to coerce agreement and make us feel good about the decision we have already made. Example: “We’re good to launch, right?”

7. Aggressive questioning
Example: Straight to “What should we do?” This might be too aggressive for some people because it provokes them to make assessments about the future before they are ready.

7 Ways to Ask Better Questions

Would you like to ask better questions to help drive the efforts of your team?  Here are Marquet’s steps to help you focus on improving the quality of the questions you are asking yourself and others.

1. Instead of question stacking, try one and done.

2. Instead of a teaching moment, try a learning moment.

3. Instead of a dirty question, try a clean question.

4. Instead of a binary question, start the question with “what” or “how.”

5. Instead of a “why” question, try “tell me more.”

6. Instead of self-affirming questions, try self-educating questions.

7. Instead of jumping to the future, start with present, past, then future.

David Marquet

The 7 ways to ask better questions is a great topic to discuss with your colleagues. What are the ways you can become more effective asking questions? I highly recommend Leadership Is Language. Contact me to discuss these concepts within your company.

All the best

© 2020 Marquet, L. David. Leadership Is Language. Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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