Rather than focusing on answers it might help instead to start asking different questions.
It’s human nature to be curious. Children start learning about the world by observing and asking questions, first about simple facts, then because they want some further explanations.
Research shows that a child asks about 40,000 questions between the ages of two and five. Adults may tire of the incessant (and often challenging) ‘whys’ but it’s hard not to appreciate the exploring and inquisitive mind, eager to fill in the gaps in its knowledge base.
As children grow up, however, curiosity levels decrease and the questions ease off. And, as they start manifesting independence of thoughts, young adults can even stop asking questions. Why do they hold back? It may be over confidence in their own knowledge but it could just as easily be the opposite – they may believe they’ll ask the ‘wrong’ question. If they accept the world they live in just as it is, however, or as they’ve been told, it’s less likely they’ll look for ways to improve it.
Questions are the driving force behind human progress and challenging ideas, assumptions and facts helps to drive creativity. It also stimulates the mind and opens it to fresh approaches. If a person wants to change the way they think, they first need to consider reframing the way they see the world by asking the (right) question.
The Art of Asking Effective Questions
If you ask pertinent, searching questions, the chances are you’ll receive more rewarding, informative answers. Yet questioning has become something of a lost art, which is a shame as it’s an important skill that deserves recognition. The style of question might differ – a factual request that requires only a short answer; a probing insight that demands a fuller explanation; a rhetorical statement to provoke reflection – but it is vital for effective communication. It helps to avoid misunderstanding and misinterpretation, it deepens trust, steers the conversation and keep people engaged. It’s a powerful tool centered around careful word choice, tone of voice and body language. The ability, for example, to extract critical information from others can depend on whether questions are posed in a sensitive or aggressive manner. The trick is knowing when to adopt which tone and stance.
What if the focus has been misdirected? What if, rather than trying to discover an answer, solution or truth, the attention might have been better placed on the question itself? But not just any question – a purposeful one that, while it might not lead to an answer, is likely to provide food for thought and generate more, yes, questions. Because sometimes asking questions is more important than finding answers.
Questions without Answers
What if there’s no definitive answer? Do you see a mystery that can’t be solved or a fascinating puzzle to put together? Forsome, it proves the limitation of human knowledge, for others, it opens the door to more possibilities, leading to wider questions. And while it may not be possible to explain every phenomenon that doesn’t prevent the exploration of ideas in a philosophical sense. But how does one learn how to think instead of what to think?
Philosophical practice can be done the Socratic way: formulate a clear question, one deceptively simple but with broad implications, on any topic that interests you, then begin the debate (in a group or with yourself), with rounds of arguments and counterarguments, examining the validity of viewpoints with reasoning and logic.
The beauty of the game is that there is no winner. It’s a meaningful journey to an inaccessible truth as the participants reach different possible conclusions. And it’s a method that ‘questions a question’ and opens the mind to fresh perspectives and concepts and new ways of thinking and being. This enriching exercise can develop one’s ability to question and argue, enhance problem-solving capacities, bring improved common sense (maybe even wisdom) and, ultimately, give a sense of direction in life. It’s time to question everything.
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