Graffiti daubed on a toilet wall… (not in Harrods, obviously): “Why are we here? Why is space infinite? Why are we doomed? Why are you reading my bloody slogan?”…
From almost the moment we’re born we have a natural desire to ask questions. This is particularly true when we’re children. Indeed, one survey discovered that the average 4 year-old girl (yes, girl!) asks around 390 questions a day, enough to test the patience of most parents (and statisticians, probably!). These can range from the humorous (in the olden days, was everything black and white?), to the obscure (do crabs have eyebrows?), to the scientific (why is the sky blue?), to the cutting (is daddy having a baby, too?).
But asking questions is the way we learn and develop. It’s how we find out about the world around us and, as adults, an entertaining way to annoy others by constantly asking ‘why’ (try it in meetings). The fun doesn’t end there with questions, either. Look at the popularity of games such as Trivial Pursuit and even the plethora of primetime entertainment shows on TV, from ‘the $64,000 question’ to, far more recently, ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire?’
Unhappily, though, there often comes a time in life when our question rate slows right down. And, unfortunately, therefore, so does our learning. For many of us, the formal education system didn’t help in this respect. Indeed, my own memories of secondary school lessons, admittedly long ago, are mainly of copying down the teachers’ spidery blackboard scrawling, listening languidly to long, laborious lectures (too many l’s?) or solo working, silently(ish), from textbooks. On the odd occasion when we did have group discussions and could ask questions, I would suddenly be infused with a new energy, participating with enthusiasm, eager for knowledge, attempting, like the kid in Uncle Buck, to beat the world record for consecutive questions asked.
Now, years later, working as a coach, I get to ask as many questions as I like! But, more importantly, I know that asking the ‘killer’ question can sometimes be a life-changing experience. A killer question is one that causes us to really think before we answer, and one that reveals information that may have previously eluded us. It’s a question that can really stop us in our tracks and help us, in turn, to question our own purpose, our life journey to date, our values, belief systems, our goals and aspirations.
Using open questions such as Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Who can you really count on to support you? How do you want to develop yourself? What do you want to contribute? And, importantly, by When?’ can open our minds to countless ideas and help inspire us to create the life that we want. And the really fascinating thing is that when we ask these questions, it enables the creative side of our brain to continue to work out solutions long after the coaching session. Not only are we born to ask questions, it seems we just love to answer them, too!
So, the time to ask the killer question is right now. Why not first ask yourself these questions, then try them out on your significant others. And remember, there’s no such thing as a stupid question…unless the question is…what is a question? Now that is the killer question!