The Question, Is the Answer

November 7, 2014 by

Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2 “The play’s the thing, wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”

The question is the thing, whereby you’ll catch the information from your colleague or customer.

  1. How can I help? A good starting or early question in any conversation. It signals positive intent to the person or group, while encouraging them to state what they need.
  2. Could you tell me more? The more information the better. It also signals your interest in fully understanding the topic at hand.
  3. What do you think? In a group setting, direct this to the person(s) who have been quiet. It tells the quiet people you care about their input and opinion. It tells the talkative people that all voices are welcome.
  4. Can I talk this back to you? Paraphrase the messages, actions, or requirements. It signals that you were actively listening, and gives the person or group a chance to clarify. Even the most active listener may have missed something.
  5. What would you like to have happen? Particularly useful in difficult situations. Getting someone to state directly what they want enables you to be able to respond directly in kind.
  6. Would it be OK to ask [insert name here] to join us? Asking if someone else can join, instead of saying “I need so-and-so in this meeting” shows consideration. Be prepared however, to add “the reason that would be helpful is….” with the reason, so that people understand what can and can’t be accomplished without the additional person.
  7. Silence. OK, not a question, but a useful tool in multiple situations if you need a moment to gather your thoughts, or in difficult situations to help others gather theirs.
  8. Would it be OK if we took this offline? Use it to avoid the inevitable rat-hole of a loose thread. However, usually only advisable to use if you are leading or a leader of the meeting.
  9. Let’s go over the next steps. Not a question, but if I had a nickel for each time that next steps weren’t covered and then misunderstandings arose, I’d have a pile of nickels. Make sure that the next steps are clear and assigned, including target dates.

You will have more and better answers, if you ask more questions.


I applaud the bravery and honesty of Tim Cook.

One of my favorite blogs is by Dan Rockwell a/k/a @leadershipfreak at

Cybersecurity month is over, but fierce attention to IT security is not. CIOs across industry sectors cite this as one of their top areas of concern.

Customer service kudo’s this week to the Michigan Flyer (water and Wi-Fi on the buses).



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