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Ask Questions

Ask Questions

    Children learn by asking questions. Students learn by asking questions. New recruits learn by asking questions. It is the simplest and most effective way of learning. People who think that they know it all no longer ask questions – why should they? Brilliant thinkers never stop asking questions because they know that this is the best way to gain deeper insights.

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    Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, said, ‘We run this company on questions, not answers.’ He knows that if you keep asking questions you can keep finding better answers.

    When Greg Dyke became Director-General of the BBC in 2000 he went to every major location and assembled the staff. They came expecting a long presentation. He simply sat down with them and asked a question, ‘What is the one thing I should do to make things better for you?’ Then he listened. He followed this with another question, ‘What is the one thing I should do to make things better for our viewers and listeners.’ He knew that at that early stage he could learn more from his employees than they could from him. The workers at the BBC had many wonderful ideas that they were keen to share. The fact that the new boss took time to question and then listen earned him enormous respect.

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    Columbo solves his mysteries by asking many questions; as do all the great detectives – in real life as well as fiction. All the great inventors and scientists asked questions. Isaac Newton asked,’ Why does an apple fall from a tree?’ and, ‘Why does the moon not fall into the Earth?’ Charles Darwin asked, ‘Why do the Galapagos islands have so many species not found elsewhere?’ Albert Einstein asked, ‘What would the Universe look like if I rode through it on a beam of light?’ By asking these kinds of fundamental questions they were able to start the process that lead to their tremendous breakthroughs.

    The great philosophers spend their whole lives asking deep questions about the meaning of life, morality, truth and so on. We do not have to be quite so contemplative but we should nonetheless ask the deep questions about the situations we face. It is the best way to get the information we need to make informed decisions.

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    If it is obvious that asking questions is such a powerful way of learning why do we stop asking questions? For some people the reason is that they are lazy. They assume they know all the main things they need to know and they do not bother to ask more. They cling to their beliefs and remain certain in their assumptions – yet they often end up looking foolish. Other people are afraid that by asking questions they will look weak, ignorant or unsure. They like to give the impression that they are decisive and in command of the relevant issues. They fear that asking questions might introduce uncertainty or show them in a poor light. In fact asking questions is a sign of strength and intelligence – not a sign of weakness or uncertainty. Great leaders constantly ask questions and are well aware that they do not have all the answers. Finally some people are in such a hurry to get with things that they do not stop to ask questions because it might slow them down. They risk rushing headlong into the wrong actions.

    At school, at home, in business, with our friends, family, colleagues, customers or managers we can check assumptions and gain a better appreciation of the issues by first asking questions. Start with very basic, broad questions then move to more specific areas to clarify your understanding. Open questions are excellent – they give the other person or people chance to give broad answers and they open up matters. Examples of open questions are:

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    • What business are we really in, what is our added value?
    • Why do you think this has happened?
    • What are all the things that might have caused this problem?
    • How can we reduce customer complaints?
    • Why do you think he feels that way?
    • What other possibilities should we consider?

    As we listen carefully to the answers we formulate further questions. When someone gives an answer we can often ask, ‘Why?’ The temptation is to plunge in with our opinions, responses, conclusions or proposals. The better approach is keep asking questions to deepen our comprehension of the issues before making up our mind. Once we have mapped out the main points we can use closed questions to get specific information. Closed questions give the respondent a limited choice of responses – often just yes or no. Examples of closed questions are:

    • When did this happen?
    • Was he angry?
    • Where is the shipment right now?
    • Did you authorise the payment?
    • Would you like to go to the cinema with me on Saturday evening?

    By giving the other person a limited choice of responses we get specific information and deliberately move the conversation forward in a particular direction.

    Asking many questions is very effective but it can make you appear to be inquisitorial and intrusive. So it is important to ask questions in a friendly and non-threatening way. Do not ask accusing questions. ‘What do you think happened?’ will probably get a better response than, ‘Are you responsible for this disaster?’ Try to pose each question in an innocent way and ensure that your body language is relaxed and amicable. Do not jab your finger or lean forward as you as put your requests.

    Try to practise asking more questions in your everyday conversations. Instead of telling someone something, ask them a question. Intelligent questions stimulate, provoke, inform and inspire. Questions help us to teach as well as to learn.

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    Paul Sloane

    Professional Keynote Speaker, Author, Innovation Expert

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    Last Updated on October 22, 2020

    11 Tips for Maintaining a Positive Attitude Every Day

    11 Tips for Maintaining a Positive Attitude Every Day

    Maintaining a positive attitude is critical when you want to achieve anything or simply improve the quality of your life. Most success literature will talk about the power of positive thinking and how important it is, but it’s often easier said than done.

    In this article, you’ll find 11 tips for maintaining your positive attitude no matter what’s going on in your life.

    1. You Determine Your Reality

    It’s important to realize that you determine your reality by the way you react to the outside world. When something happens, you get to choose whether it’s a positive or negative situation and react accordingly.

    For example, if you lose your job, your first reaction will likely be one of anger, frustration, and hopelessness. However, what if you were able to turn those emotions around and look at that experience as an opportunity.

    You now have the chance to find a job where you will be able to learn new skills and perhaps even be happier. And in the meantime, you have some free time to analyze what direction you want the next stage of your life to go in.

    2. Start Your Day Strong

    Most people have to drag themselves out of bed, and this sets a negative state of mind for their entire day. Positive people create a long-term morning ritual that reinforces how great life is and how happy they are to be alive.

    I used to wake up and immediately turn on Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life to get me into a positive mood. Now I start my day by reading or listening to something positive. Whether you have 1 minute, 15 minutes, or an hour to dedicate to your ritual, you can start the day in a way that helps you feel relaxed and ready for the day ahead.

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    Cultivate a positive attitude with a great morning routine.

      3. Exercise Is the Natural Feel-Good Drug

      Exercise is a great way to maintain a good attitude because of all the positive chemicals it releases into the bloodstream.

      One study found that between groups who participated in high-intensity interval training, moderate continuous training, and no exercise, those in the second group experienced the greatest drop in depressive symptoms and stress[1]. Therefore, if you’re looking to exercise to help you feel good, get your heart rate up, but don’t push too hard or you may increase overall stress.

      Also, remember that exercise can include many activities. If you don’t like running, try dancing or kickboxing instead. Put on some upbeat music to kick up the positive vibes even more.

      4. Use Books, Audio and Videos to Overload Your Brain with Positivity

      There are millions of amazing books, podcasts, and videos for you to absorb from people who are inspiring and living the life of their dreams. Tap into their positive emotions and their experience by learning how they think and what they do to create the lives they want.

      You can do this in the morning or while exercising, eating, commuting, cooking, cleaning… there’s always time for positivity.

      5. Your Language Shapes Your Thoughts

      Little changes in your language can change the way you think and how you act. Whenever someone greets you and asks how you’re doing, do you answer with “fine” or “not too bad”? Think about just what this language is communicating to others… and yourself.

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      I always answer with “great,” “fantastic,” or “amazing.” Not only does this remind me that life really is great, but it usually helps the other person shift toward a positive attitude as well.

      Also, take some time to look at the way your inner voice talks to you. Is that language positive or negative? If it’s overly critical or negative, it may be time to tap into some mindfulness meditation in order to shift your inner critic to an inner cheerleader.

      6. Hang out With Positive People

      It is often said that you will have a similar level of health, income and lifestyle as the five people you spend the most time with.

      So if you want to be fit, then start to hang out with fit people. Want to start a business? Then hang out with business owners. And if you want to be positive, make sure you’re hanging out with positive people[2].

      7. Show Your Appreciation for Others

      By appreciating others for a job well done, their outfit, or their smile, you start to cause a positive chain reaction. Stop complaining and focus on all the good others are doing around you.

      Don’t you feel great when you receive a compliment from someone else? Well, if you want to receive more, then start giving them out and watch what happens to the people around you.

      One particular study found that people who sent letters of gratitude experienced significant increases in happiness scores[3]. If you don’t feel like writing a letter, send a nice text to someone who recently helped you out, or send an email thanking your coworker for always helping pick up the slack around the office. Whatever it is, take some time to show gratitude.

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      8. Garbage In, Garbage Out

      This is an expression from programming where the result is only as good as the input. If you’re feeding yourself with negativity all day long, then it’s pretty obvious you’re going to be feeling negative as well.

      A great deal of the media thrives on negativity. Put yourself on a negativity diet (including people) and watch how much easier it is to maintain your positive attitude.

      9. Stop Negative Thoughts in Their Tracks

      It’s hard to be a constantly positive person, and negative thoughts are going to bubble up from time to time. These will be more frequent in the beginning but can decrease as you practice the tips we’re talking about. When you start to notice negative thoughts, you can use a pattern interrupt to stop them in their tracks.

      The idea is to interrupt your current thought pattern and shift to a more positive outlook. One way to do this is to set a visual or auditory cue. It can be something as simple as a bracelet you wear each day or the sound of a car passing outside your window. Whenever you see or hear the cue, use it to shift your thoughts to something positive.

      You can learn more on how to shift your mindset and negative attitudes in the following video:

      10. Live With Gratitude

      So many positive things happen during our day, and we often ignore them while letting one negative comment or event ruin our mood. It can help to keep a gratitude journal where you jot down things you are grateful for each night or during the day.

      If you’re reading this, then you probably live with a roof over your head and food in your belly, which is a daily struggle for a large portion of the world. However, we often take these things for granted and don’t realize just how great we have it.

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      Try refocusing your thoughts towards everything you do have instead of what you don’t. One study found that reflecting on past experiences with a sense of gratitude can lead to increases in both hope and happiness[4]. That’s a great reason to give it a go today.

      You can find more ways to practice gratitude in this article.

      11. Recharge Your Batteries

      One key to adopting a positive attitude is taking the time to recharge your batteries. This might mean taking a few hours on the weekend to read a positive book or taking a few weeks for a holiday.

      If you’re not in the position to travel, you can take a staycation, or have a “home holiday” where you simply switch off from the outside world and spend time doing things you love.

      Final Thoughts

      You now have 11 tips for maintaining your positive attitude, but they are no use to you unless you implement them into your life.

      Start small, and pick the easiest tip or the one that you really love and introduce it into your life starting right now. Then, over time, start implementing the other tips and watch your positivity soar.

      More Tips About Staying Positive

      Featured photo credit: Pepe Cast Zam via unsplash.com

      Reference

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