I’m going to pose a challenge, of sorts, to you. What do you expect when you ask a question? An answer. We want to get from point A to point B. But what if I told you we should expect more from our questions than just an answer? What if, instead of thinking about the process as Question & Answer, we thought of the process as Question & Listen? Q&A implies that there is a finite end; that there is a point A and a point B, and that is all. But, Q&L implies something more, like a vector, a starting point of a line that projects out; a launching point with no end, but limitless direction and possibility. That limitless possibility that emanates from a question, I believe, is learning. When we question and listen, we learn.
This whole line of thinking is inspired by Frank Sesno’s new book, Ask More. Sesno, a veteran of CNN and the current director of the School of Media and Public Affair at George Washington University, understands the value of a good question. As he says in the book, “Smart questions make smarter people. We learn, connect, observe, and invent through the questions we ask.” Without giving away the whole book, Sesno breaks down questions into 11 categorical types (Diagnostic, Strategic, Empathy, Bridging, Confrontational, Creativity, Mission, Scientific, Interviews, Entertaining, and Legacy) and delves into each, defining what they are and how they can be utilized.
In addition to dissecting questions themselves and how we can best craft them, Sesno although emphasizes the importance of listening. It is this particular dynamic of Ask More that I think is most applicable to the veterinary practice setting, and really life in general. Emphasizing questioning and listening imbues the process with an educational quality. The importance is to learn, not just to find an answer. To learn, we must engage. We must engage in thinking about how we question, we must engage not by looking for the answer we want, but rather by listening.
This whole Q&L paradigm implies a certain level of thoughtfulness, and this is where I challenge you from a veterinarian perspective. When we make the conscious decision to question and listen thoughtfully, we are engaging in the process of consciously interacting and learning. To think that we, as veterinary practice owners, have already learned everything we need to know – especially if there’s a graduate degree/DVM/MBA sitting in your back pocket – is a foolish notion and can close us off from opportunities to pivot, grow, evolve, or even open new doors and paths. We should never be done learning. And to think we have learned all we need to learn shows just how little we have actually learned. So my challenge to you is this: as you interact with your associates, employees, clients, or what-have-you, be conscious of your interaction and make the effort to be deliberate in how you ask questions. Then, instead of looking for a particular answer, just listen. Be open to the notion that there is always the possibility to learn. Learning implies growth, and I would surmise that this personal growth might spill over into your business, in one way or another. To question is to learn, and to learn is to grow.
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