Nine Ways Questions Can Transform Professional and Personal Relationships - Slide 5

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They help people clarify their thinking and “get out of the cave.”

The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates said that we perceive reality as if we are chained inside a dark cave. In that cave, we see only the blurred shadows of life outside the cave as they are projected on a dark wall at the back. Our understanding of reality is filtered and distorted. By asking a series of questions, Socrates would engage his students’ minds in the learning process. In this way he uncovered assumptions and slowly but surely got to the heart of the issue.

The “Socratic Method” is still used at Harvard Business School — and it can enable you to help others see the true reality instead of shadowy representations of it. Instead of saying, “We need to improve our customer service,” try asking: “How would you assess our customer service levels today?” Or, “How is our service impacting our customer retention?” If someone at work says, “We need more innovation,” ask, “Can you describe what innovation means to you? How would we know if we had more of it?” Or if there is a call for more teamwork, ask, “What do you mean when you say ‘teamwork’?”

In his post, “Asking the Right Questions Can Have a Dramatic Impact on Your Life,” Don Tennant wrote about the importance of knowing what questions to ask in a given situation. The topic warrants further discussion, to elaborate on exactly why mastering the art of asking questions is so essential.

In that post Don shared some tips from Andrew Sobel, a management consultant, executive coach and co-author of “Power Questions: Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others,” about asking questions during a job interview. To underscore the importance of asking questions in a more general context, here are nine ways Sobel says questions can transform professional and personal relationships.

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