Questions: A tool for problem solving and self-discovery

Asking questions is a fantastic growth tool, for many reasons.

by Laura Orsini — 

“If you don’t ask the right questions, you don’t get the right answers. A question asked in the right way often points to its own answer. Asking questions is the A-B-C of diagnosis. Only the inquiring mind solves problems.” — Edward Hodnett

One of the best gifts my father ever gave me was the ability to ask questions. His famous refrain was, “If you don’t know, ask.” He taught me never to be ashamed to ask a teacher for clarification if I was confused about a point they were making. He reminded me that sometimes others had the same questions, and even encouraged me to ask questions when I already knew the answer if I suspected others in the class didn’t quite understand something. My dad was a wise man.

Asking questions is a fantastic growth tool, for many reasons. The mere phrasing of a thought in the form of a question causes our brain instantly to begin solving the problem as it works on answering the question. Simple things — like changing to the phrase, “I can’t find my keys” to “Where are my keys?” — can make a huge difference. Bigger things, too. Imagine how our lives would change if, instead of saying something like, “I don’t know how to …” we were to ask, “I wonder how to …?”

Asking questions is essential to our continued growth and personal development. Because our knowledge becomes obsolete at various times throughout our lives, it is crucial to question our assumptions. Sometimes, when it seems we’ve forgotten how to ask questions because the curiosity has been stomped out of us in our efforts to conform to society, we must relearn how to learn.

Searching questions can help us discover new opportunities, uncover the roots of a problem and find creative solutions. Asking searching questions begins with challenging our assumptions. It’s been said that the three most dangerous words in the English language are, “I know that.” If we do not check our assumptions, we are unable to ask good searching questions.

Steer clear of the desire to ask one or two questions and hurtle toward a solution. An incomplete understanding of a problem makes it very easy to jump to erroneous or misleading conclusions. Open-ended questions allow us to elicit a wide range of answers to problems, challenges and conundrums. “Why” questions help us discover the roots of the problem. “How” questions provide different routes to significant answers or improvements.

Learning to ask good questions can help us unearth solutions to problems and challenges, large and small. From what we should make for dinner to whether we should take that job in another state to what our life’s purpose is, asking the right question is the first step to arriving at the best answer.


Laura Orsini is a professional editor, writer and marketing advisor and author of  1,001 Real-Life Questions for Women: A Self-Exploration Workbook to Make You Laugh, Cry, Ponder, Ruminate & Consider. 602-518-5376, or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 28, Number  3, Jun/July 2009.

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