Did you know that you can use a question to make almost any statement you desire? I just did it, didn’t I? Well now that was two in a row, wasn’t it? And that was the third one, don’t you see? I could go on all day, right? Each of the first five sentences in this paragraph is a question that makes a statement. I refer to these as “statement questions”. However, they go farther than making a statement.
A statement question is one that causes the listener to think. Reading the first sentence in this article your brain automatically kicked into thought processing. Your likely first response was, “You can?” Notice your response is a question. Then you read the second question, brain still engaged, you realize, “He really did”. Then as you read the next three sentences, you begin to see the pattern, and a slight smile came across your face.
When people read or hear a statement their mind continues on to what is coming next. However, when a question is posed, verbally or in writing, your mind kicks into thought processing. When used properly, questions will produce great lasting learning. Unfortunately, most of our questions today are not engaging the mind for learning. We’re asking the wrong questions. Properly formulated questions will not only cause the listener to pause but will engage his/her higher-level thought processes.
As a forty-plus-year student of the question and one who has written numerous articles and several book chapters on questions, I receive calls frequently to assist in developing questions for situations or projects. I enjoy this as it is a challenge to me and causes my higher-order thought processes to engage for the assistance of the organization or individual. Yet, I am still a student of the question, desiring to learn more. I believe the question is one of God’s greatest gifts to us as leaders.
Back to the statement question. Jesus used statement questions in his ministry. In Matthew 18:33 in His parable of the unforgiving servant, Jesus says, “Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant as I had on you?” Is there a statement inside that question? Certainly. He is invoking something greater than a yes or no answer.
Earlier in the same chapter of Matthew, Jesus shares the parable of the lost sheep. Jesus first sets the stage with a question, then forms the parable into a question. “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hill and go to look for the one that wandered off?”
Do not miss the impact on the learning process of Jesus’ delivery. His opening question is much more than a question. “What do you think?” Is it a question or a decree? Is He not verbally directing his listeners to think? Jesus is telling His listeners that to fully understand what I am about to say you must go beyond surface-level thinking. You must engage in deeper level thinking. He knew His listeners could have given a superficial surface answer. His intent was a learning experience, not a rote yes or no.
What will you do this week to engage your brain to lead with higher-quality questions?
Resources: Teaching That Bears Fruit, chapter 4, The Art of the Question. Coaching: A Way of Leadership, A Way of Life, chapters 7-10.