qimono / Pixabay

qimono / Pixabay

How we ask a question determines the usefulness of what we get back.

The mild avoidance I have with question and answer sites like Quora is this: The questions are predominantly looking for straightforward answers, and are closed in nature. Examples:

  • How do I do this?
  • Who said or did this?
  • What is the value of this?

The answers are determinative and evaluative. They don’t easily lend themselves to exposition and expression. This is data retrieval.

I would have thought sites like these present the rare opportunity to ask deeper, more meaningful, and more open questions. Like:

  • What do you think about…?
  • How do you feel about…?
  • What was it like to be…?

These are more likely to elicit more consider, nuanced and diverse perspectives. This is more likely to spark discourse. And requires critical thought.

It is easier to ask closed, information-requesting questions. Because we get something clear and simple to take away and work with, instead of having to think through the responses to extract what we need out of them.

The downside is that we can fall into a one-size-fits-all situation. We lose the opportunity to enrich and tailor responses to our unique situations.