The power of a simple question

If you’re working on a side project or starting a new business you’ll know that it requires you to get out of your comfort zone. And this often means asking for things we wouldn’t normally ask for, which can seem pretty scary.

When it feels like you have a lot ridding on the answer, it makes it harder to ask the question. If the answer’s no it might feel like failure, but unless you ask, you can’t move forward, right. So even though asking a question seems like a simple concept, the fear of a negative outcome can stop us in our tracks.

There are, of course, different types of questions and we often find some easier than others.

There are big questions:

  • Without attachment or judgement, what would you love to be creating 6 months from now?
  • What do you need more of in your life?
  • What issue do you feel is holding you back most?

And then there are smaller questions:

  • Could you help me with my project?
  • Do you want to collaborate with our brand?
  • Would you like a complimentary coaching session?

The big questions are easy to ask but tough to answer. They require the person asking to withhold judgement of the response and allow the respondent to be free to give their honest views - anything less and the person answering would only be kidding themselves.

The small questions are hard to ask but easy to answer. They often come with expectation from the person asking and force the respondent to give a limited yes, no, I’ll think about it response. Sometimes the answer is perceived to be more valuable to the person asking, than it is for those responding because of the expectation attached.

When we branch out to create a life less ordinary we start to ask more questions. This is often of ourselves, the big soul searching ones where there’s no immediate response, but as time passes and you take action to figure out who you are, you start to find some answers.

On the flip side the real progress on your project comes from asking more questions of others. This simple act can be so powerful. It can help give you confidence to take another small step forward with your project, give you valuable feedback, help you find new opportunities to collaborate or connect you with other people.

Here we often opt for smaller questions and these can be the most scary. When the answer means something to you, you get that feeling deep in your belly, that sense of dread, the slight panic that it might go wrong, that you’ll cause more harm than good by asking, that you’ll waste an opportunity if you don’t do it right.

But the number one, most important part of all…

…is simply to ask.

That person you’ve been stalking on social media and you’d love to collaborate with - ask them out for a beer.

That company you think would hugely benefit from your product/service - ask them for their opinion on a relevant issue they might be having.

Just start the conversation.

A good gauge to see how you’re doing is to count the no’s. The more you have the better you’re doing. If you have zero no’s, it’s likely you also have very few or even zero yes’s.

The more no’s you get, the more information you’ll have about how you’re doing. You’re better able to tell if your approach is hitting the spot or if you need to tweak your product/service. You might even uncover a blindingly obvious opportunity that only came to light because of the no’s.

And remember, we all like being asked our opinion. Most of us are fairly open, warm people who want to reach out and connect. So don’t be afraid to ask us a question.

If you need a helping hand on where to start, I think it can help to approach the smaller questions as if they were big ones.

  • Ask it without expectation or judgement — either of yourself or their response. Just get curious.
  • Think of it as starting a conversation, keep it open, don’t lock them down to a yes or no.

Asking a question is something we’re all capable of and it can have such a positive impact on your project. You don’t need a qualification, permission or experience. And best of all, you can do it right now.

Challenge: Whatever you’re doing, stop. Take 20 minutes to draft an email, pick up the phone or send a tweet. Ask a simple question and see where it leads.

It’s never as bad as you think it is, you’ll get far more from it than you could ever loose and the benefits might surprise you.


Want more on the power of questions? Check out Amanda Palmer on The art of asking.

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I’d love to hear what projects you’re working on so do get in touch.