In my business training I get asked lots of questions, this mostly is an enjoyable and productive part of the job. I’ve also come to notice there some questions which aren’t really questions at all…Here’s my list of types of questions you may come across:
The most straightforward kind – asking for information. E.g. “What is the capital of France”. This is a question as commonly understood.
Participants often ask questions they are beginning to know the answer to in order to work it out. These look like information questions but have a different tone and I usually answer with a reflection to give them a better learning opportunity than just me telling them. Processing questions can take the form of “how does it apply to me..” “is that like this other thing I know about” etc.
Some questions really aren’t questions at all but ways for the questioner to show their knowledge of a subject and prop up their self-esteem. E.g. “Wouldn’t you say that the 1974 review of Myers Briggs was in fact a mistake and earlier version were in fact superior?” I usually acknowledge a person’s expertise and ask what they think on other issues that come up to include them, or gently challenge them it if they are disrupting the group – this is sometimes a hard call. Asking their experience is one way to do both at once.
Some people learn by looking to find holes in arguments presented and challenge the presenter. When this happens I centre myself and answer as best I can – it’s a healthy process that builds trust for the whole group and certainly my karma 🙂 If one person challenges repeatedly and habitually I talk to them off-line one-to-one and ask if it is really serving them or the group.
Some questions are more about emotional connection than information – this can take the form of attention seeking at it’s worst or just being friendly and wanting to show an interest. Again, the tone is different from purely information questions. I answer them mindful of the underlying need and other concerns (e.g. time constraints).
Note that different types of questions are meeting different needs, but they are all asking for needs to be addressed so all “genuine” on one level. The improatnt thing is to recognise what the need is so you don’t just provide information when something else is required.