Questions vs. Answers

As a teacher and school administrator, I used to think that people needed answers to their questions.  I always hated it when people would ask me another question to the question that I asked.  One day I decided to change my attitude about that because it actually helped me to clarify what I wanted.  Often when we ask a question it is because we are unclear about something.  If we just receive an answer, particularly as a child, we tend to accept it and move on.  No real thinking or learning takes place.

Today I want to encourage everyone, particularly our parents, to ask more questions.  People need more questions than answers.  A simple question such as, “What do you need to know?”  In terms of your understanding and what you’re asking, what is missing?  What do you need to know?  Where can you find it?  Though frustrating at first, this helps all of us to be more resourceful, to think things through a bit more.

I worked for a large private corporation at one point in my career.  They had more software than you could imagine and it seemed to always be changing.  I worked with a colleague who really had a knack for figuring out how to do various things.  His office was right next door so it was far too easy to just poke my head it and ask him a question.  He was always willing to give me an answer.  But soon I found that the next time I had the same question, I couldn’t remember what he told me and would have to ask him again.  One day I simply asked him, how on earth he figured out some of this stuff.  His answer shocked me, he said, “Rich I just figured it out.”  Figured it out, I thought.  You mean like struggle with it until you found out how to do it?  You’re kidding, why do that when you can just ask someone.  Retention is the answer, you will remember that which you have to figure out.

It is helpful to guide others’ thinking by asking a few questions.  Using the software example, you might say, “Let’s look at the software.  In which section of the banner do you think something like that might be?”  That alone would get someone to figure it out without quite as much frustration.  As parents, we feel like to always need to provide an answer to our kids so we just deal them out like cards.  But by asking questions of our kids we get them to think a bit more.

Here is what I know:  People need more questions than answers.  Our retention goes way up when we figure things out on our own.  Once I started figuring out the software on my own, I learned it faster and remembered how to do things as well.  I felt much more capable by being pushed to figure it out than by running next door for an answer.

Yours for better parenting,

Rich