Let’s look at two sets of questions:
Where did you eat last night?
When did you get that project done?
Who was the last person to leave this on the counter?
How did you raise your kids to behave that well?
How did you accomplish that goal so fast?
How did you lose all that weight?
The difference between the two group of questions can be found in one little magical word called HOW.
Don’t you love the word “HOW”? Think about this - if you were on the receiving end of one of these questions in group 2 above, it means you have done something so intriguing, so interesting, or so unbelievable that the asking person wants to know more. It’s a clear signal that you have permission to go a bit deeper on the topic.
On the flip side, if you were asked the questions in group 1, the expectation is that you will give a very short response. In a world where we ask a lot of drive by questions and don’t really care about the answer, a HOW question can be the trigger of a great conversation because you got the recipients attention and they are now curious to hear your thoughts.
I get the HOW questions at the end of every single keynote or seminar where I am presenting. It always starts off with questions about something I said in the presentation, but then it quickly gets to these questions about HOW I wrote a book:
HOW did you start?
HOW did you publish?
HOW long did it take you?
Whether they are shocked that someone like me can write a book (smile) or they have desires of their own to become an author, the HOW questions are where I can go into great details because the audience member asked for it and gave me the permission to go deep by phrasing it with the HOW.
My question for you to ponder –
When was the last time you were so curious that it propelled you to ask someone HOW?
If you are struggling to remember a single example, here are three places you can try to uncover the mystery of HOW:
- Remember what it was like to be a child and be curious about everything around you. You might be surprised at the response when you ask the local chef HOW he prepares his special dish.
- Break the routine and head to something different – maybe a new restaurant, new area of town, or a new vacation spot. Make it so different from your routine where you get slightly uncomfortable.
- Do something new – maybe a hobby, a new sport, or find a new festival.
As with all my blogs, here are 5 great questions to start a conversation with your group, team, or tribe that do not begin with HOW (smile):
- What is your favorite museum?
- If you could spend 15 minutes with any living person, who would it be and why?
- Where was your favorite vacation as a child?
- When you were in elementary school, what was your favorite activity at recess?
- Describe the most interesting person you have met while traveling on an airplane.
Like my questions? They all come from my latest book called GroupGlue. Over 1100 questions designed to help improve your team or group culture by starting great conversations.