Questions can change the world.
I was at a team dinner about a month ago when, out of the blue, a colleague turned to me and asked a question.
“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
No context, no heads up, just a question.
You can imagine my surprise as I looked up from my ravioli. It felt like someone had pulled the pin from a grenade and dropped it in my lap.
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?www.ryanpaugh.co
I could immediately feel my brain racing as I tried to buy myself some time before formulating a response.
“What am I afraid of?”
“What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?”
We were quickly interrupted as the table topic moved to sports and politics, but the damage had already been done — I couldn’t stop thinking about that question.
I thought about it for the duration of the walk back to my hotel and I’m still thinking about it now, nearly a month later.
Because questions are powerful.
Neuroscience knows this to be true. It turns out that questions actually hijack the brain. When you hear a question — especially a good one — your brain literally cannot think of anything else. They are the ultimate attention-grabber and, when used effectively, can be a very powerful weapon in your arsenal as a professional.
My colleague’s question certainly got my attention.
It also got me thinking, and it ALSO got me feeling. I felt my chest tighten slightly and a sudden sense of urgency: to reflect, to think, to act.
All of this happened in nanoseconds: question –> thoughts –> emotion
This is powerful because it’s the emotion that ultimately leads to action, not just knowledge, so if you want to help someone don’t tell them something, ask them something.
What happens if you don’t make a change?
What’s one habit that, if you changed, would change your life?
What are you doing with what you’ve been given?
What are you avoiding in your career?
In what ways is this challenge you’re facing exactly what you need right now?
Question –> thoughts –> emotion –> action
In fact, just asking people about their future decisions significantly influences their likelihood to act. One study showed that just by asking if people were going to purchase a new car within six months increased their purchase rates by 35%.
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I believe that one of the best things we can do for the people around us is to ask them questions. When you do, you help them reflect, you help them learn, you help them express themselves, and you help them take action.
In a world filled with constant talking, I think we need more questions.