Why the question is one of your most powerful tools

According to reports we are now living in a post-fact world.  A world where experts are devalued and comments and opinions can be positioned without question, even if they have no substance or evidence to back them up.

photo-1458419948946-19fb2cc296afThis is most commonly playing out in the political arena where politicians make sweeping generalisations, bend the truth or outright lie to serve their agenda.

There’s a sense that people can say whatever they want with no consequence. While people who are experts are sometimes deemed untrustworthy because they are part of the intelligentsia.

Some may argue that this has been going on for centuries.  Galileo, for example, was denounced in the 17th century as a heretic for his scientific findings that the earth rotates around sun, contradicting the doctrines of the Church.

Today, we are surrounded by more information than ever and it’s becoming harder to know which sources to trust.  We are bombarded with information, disinformation, propaganda, advertising material and just loads and loads of ‘stuff’.

In such an environment it becomes more important than ever to question what we hear, read and see.

Why? Because it may not be what it seems. When we take something on face value we may be missing key pieces of information or overlooking unseen options. If we are certain we are right, we shut ourselves off from hearing different opinions or exploring alternatives.

So what’s the antidote for certainty? It’s being curious and asking questions – and lots of them.

And this isn’t just asking a question to get the answer we want.

Instead we want to:

  • Seek out different ideas
  • Check those ideas by seeking further ideas from other sources
  • Reflect on what we hear and see
  • Challenge our assumptions and the assumptions of others
  • Check our understanding by asking clarifying questions
  • Take the time to absorb and ponder the implications of what we hear or read

Much of this is about tapping into the natural curiosity we all have as a child to wonder not what just is, but what could be.

It was Brian Cox, Advanced Fellow in Particle Physics at the University of Manchester who said:  “Being dogmatic is not a positive attribute. Being certain about things is actually not a positive thing. And so I think somehow our societies have got into this position where people feel that certainty and strength and this kind of ‘I make decisions’, that that is a trait to be valued.”

If you want to make better choices in your life and at work start with questioning what is happening around you. Abandon the assumptions. Embrace the power of curiosity and what comes when you explore and discern, rather than assume and accept.

Change happens. Make it work for you.

Michelle Gibbings is a change and leadership expert and founder of Change Meridian.  Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them accelerate progress. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’.  For more information: www.michellegibbings.com or contact michelle@michellegibbings.com.

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