Many years ago, long before smartphones made these things easy to do, I remember rummaging through my bag during a movie looking for paper and a pen so I could write down a quote I wanted to remember. I didn’t need to bother, I remembered the quote because it has stuck with me and I think about it all the time.
The movie was The Passenger with Jack Nicholson. And the quote was “Your questions reveal more about you than my answers will reveal about me.” I remember how that line resonated with me in a very deep way. And I’ve thought about it often.
What questions do you have right now about your situation?
In a recent conversation, I started to pay attention to the questions that a friend was asking. All of the questions were around a certain theme and I realized that she was really struggling with something bigger than what we were talking about. Although on the surface her questions were about a work situation, there was something else going on with her. Her questions were not about work, they were about who she is right now in her life and whether or not she is aligned with her values. When we started focusing on her questions, the conversation completely changed.
I’ve seen this same thing happen during Q&A times in meetings or town halls. Someone gets up and asks a very pointed question and I think, “Wow, that question just told me a lot about who you are, what you value and what you are concerned about.” In fact, I think the most value in Q&A times is hearing the questions - we often don’t need the answers!
I have recently taken on a new client and I have a lot of questions about the role and the organization. I’ve been paying attention to my questions and to the way I am feeling when I ask those questions. I know I need to reflect on them and within those questions I will find more wisdom than I will in the answers.
Pay attention to the questions you are asking and the questions that people are asking you. There is a lot to learn from them. We often get caught up in our answers but sometimes the best insight comes from reflecting on why that particular question we keep asking is so important.