Do you ever imagine you’re a guest on a podcast you’re listening to, or a chat show you’re watching?
Like you’re a part of the conversation?
I do this, and I’m sure I’m not alone (whether anyone else admits to it or not).
Sometimes, I imagine being asked some of the questions the hosts are asking their guests. I start thinking about my responses to those same questions.
(Yes, this is what almost a year of lockdown looks like.)
Why do we (look, it can’t be just me) do this?
Well, for one thing we all like to believe that other people find us interesting.
But I think there’s also something about a really good podcast / chat show discussion that makes us – the unseen, unheard listener or viewer – feel really involved, as if we really are a part of the conversation too.
It often comes down to the quality of the questions asked…
There’s something about listening to a couple of interesting people asking searching questions that makes you wish you were part of the fun.
You start wondering how you’d respond to different questions, different situations, how you’d share your experiences and how the interviewer would react to them:
Would they be surprised, would they laugh at your funny stories, would your responses inspire different follow-up questions to the ones they’re asking the real guest?
Like I said, it’s really all about the choice of questions.
Sometimes you know exactly what’s coming – we’ve all seen and heard a thousand interviews with celebrities plugging their latest work, and some podcasts rely on the same traditional ‘presser’ format.
Hey, it serves a purpose: usually, marketing. But still: yawn.
Yet occasionally you’ll hear someone ask a really interesting question and you can sense the interview subject really getting into it, really thinking hard about their answer.
I’m no Larry King (RIP), but the same thing often happens when I talk with clients on a project.
There are certain ‘standard’ questions I need to ask almost every time, which clients usually expect – the kind that help with essential understanding of their product, target market, background, etc.
Often, a biz-owner may have answered them at least a couple of times before.
But then there are other questions – either unexpected or more personal, requiring a more thoughtful, sometimes harder-to-find response – which really land.
You can tell pretty quickly when you’ve hit on a good one.
Sometimes a client will say “wow that’s an interesting one, I’ve never really thought about it like that” or “I’ve never been asked that before” or even – and this can be weird at first, but it’s actually not a bad thing to hear – “why do you ask THAT?!?”
When we’re forced to think differently or deeply about something we really care about, it can be rewarding. It can be difficult. It can trigger old memories or unearth long-kept secrets.
A good question can shock us, make us laugh, upset us, help us realise something we didn’t know (or didn’t KNOW we knew).
Asking and answering good questions is a fascinating experience…
It’s like being on your own podcast or chat show – you get to be the centre of attention for a while, and I’ve found even the most introverted people enjoy that from time to time.
The right questions help us to see ourselves better, but also to get out of our own way.
A simple question can help us find clarity in confusion, so we can pinpoint what’s essential when we’re overwhelmed.
Good questions help us make better decisions, and find what really matters in our life and work.
If you’re a business owner or operator of any kind – whether a beginner freelancer or decorated CEO – you can benefit from asking better questions of yourself, your clients and customers, your colleagues.
In my work I’ve happily paid a number of consultants, coaches and other experts to ask me the questions they think matter.
But even an honest chat with friends or family can uncover hidden gold.
Having someone else ask a question which you may have had rattling around inside your own head can lead to very different responses…
There’s a feeling of commitment, a sense of accountability which can help you finally form an answer – even if it’s not the answer you expect.
Sometimes it can prompt a key breakthrough, sometimes it’s just about starting a thought process, getting the ball rolling towards a ‘lightbulb moment’ that arrives much later (often when you’re not expecting it – like in the shower or on a walk).
And of course, there are some questions that just lead to… more questions. But even they can be useful.
All of which leads to a question for YOU…
I’m currently working on a new way to help entrepreneurs, biz-owners and creatives achieve breakthroughs in their work. As you may have guessed, it’s based around questions 😉
I’ll share more details with you soon. For now, I’m curious:
What’s an interesting, useful or surprising question you’ve asked (or been asked) recently?
Something that helped you with a work problem, or with an important decision. Maybe something you use regularly in your work…
Hit up the comments below to tell me. I’d love to know why a particular question resonated with you, and how it helped.