Blog Post: To Discipline and Improve Your Thinking, Learn to Ask Deep Questions on a Daily Basis

Linda Elder
May 21, 2021 • 119d ago
To Discipline and Improve Your Thinking, Learn to Ask Deep Questions on a Daily Basis

{"ops":[{"attributes":{"color":"#6e6e6e"},"insert":"“‘How do you know so much about everything?’ was asked of a very wise and intelligent man; and the answer was, ‘By never being afraid or ashamed to ask questions as to anything of which I was ignorant.’” —J. Abbott"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nThinking is driven by questions. The quality of your questions determines the quality of your thinking. Superficial questions lead to superficial thinking. Deep questions lead to deep thinking. Insightful. questions lead to insightful thinking. Creative questions lead to creative thinking. Further, questions determine the intellectual tasks required of you—if you are to answer them sufficiently. For example, the question “Are there any apples in the refrigerator?” implies that, to answer the question, you need to look in the refrigerator and count the apples there. The question “What is the best way to parent in this situation?” calls on you to think about the concept of parenting, to think about the specific parenting issues you are facing at the moment, and to think about the options available to you. Thus, questions lay out different, but specific, tasks for the mind to work through.\n \nGood thinkers routinely ask questions to understand and effectively deal with the world around them. They question the status quo. They know that things are often different from how they are presented. Their questions penetrate images, masks, fronts, and propaganda. Their questions bring clarity and precision to the problems they face. Their questions bring discipline to their thinking. Their questions show that they do not necessarily accept the world as it is presented to them. They go beyond superficial or “loaded” questions. Their questions help them solve their problems and make better decisions.\n \nWhen you become a student of questions, you learn to ask powerful questions that lead to a deeper and more fulfilling life. Your questions become more basic, essential, and deep. When you understand the questions other people are asking, you can better understand their thinking and viewpoint.\n \nAs you go through the next week, be on the lookout for questions you and others ask.\n \n·      What types of questions do you tend to ask?"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"·      When do you fail to ask important and relevant questions?"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"·      Do you tend to ask deep questions or superficial ones?"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"Listen to how others question, when they question, and when they fail to question. Examine the extent to which you are a questioner, or if you are simply one who accepts definitions of situations given by others. Focus on bringing your mind alive by improving the quality of the questions you ask. Notice the questions that guide your actions. Notice the questions that guide the actions of others.\n \nActively use these strategies for formulating more powerful questions:\n\n• Whenever you don’t understand something, ask a question to clarify precisely what you do not understand. Never answer a question unless you understand what it is asking."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"• Whenever you are dealing with a complex problem, formulate the question you are trying to answer in several different ways (being as precise as you can) until you hit on the way that best addresses the problem at hand. Then figure out what issues, problems, or ideas you need to think through to answer the question. Figure out what information you need to consider. Do you need to look at the question from multiple viewpoints? If so, detail those viewpoints as clearly and accurately as possible before proceeding to answer the question."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"• Whenever you plan to discuss an important issue or problem, write down in advance the most significant questions you need to address in the discussion. Be ready to change the main question if necessary. As soon as the question is clear, help those in the discussion stick to the question, making sure that the dialogue builds toward an answer that makes sense."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nQuestions you can ask to discipline your thinking:\n "},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"• What precise question am I trying to answer?"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"• Is this the best question to ask in this situation?"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"• Is there a more important question I should be addressing?"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"• Does this question capture the real issue I am facing?"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"• Is there a question I should answer before I attempt to answer this question?"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"• What information do I need to gather to answer the question?"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"• What conclusions seem justified in light of the facts?"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"• What is my point of view? Do I need to consider another?"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"• Is there another way to look at the question?"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"• What are some related questions I need to consider?"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"• What type of question is this: an economic question, a political question, a legal question, an ethical question, or a complex question with multiple domains?"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \n[This blog piece was adapted from "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"30 Days to Better Thinking and Better Living"},{"insert":" by Linda Elder and Richard Paul, 2013, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, pp. 77-79].\n"}]}


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