Living a life worth imitating means constantly improving. For years I thought I was at my smartest when I was sharing what I knew. But in the last year or so I’ve learned the power of questions.

Some friends think of me as their “designated reader” because I love to share what I’ve learned from the books I read. Those same friends know I too often become a “deaf professor,” prattling on when everyone stopped listening long ago.

Blaine Strickland is a fine coach who works with me. In one session he was helping me make better cold calls. After several of my calls, he suggested: “Speak far less and get client to talk much, much more.” He advocated asking good questions as a way to learn about the person on the other end of the call. He asserts that people trust more when they talk to you than when they listen to you.

It was great advice, but I didn’t change right away. I thought about the power of questions, though. Asking great questions requires more intense engagement than rattle on off known speeches. One needs to think about the other and top frame things as the other may understand them. The other morning, I was reading Scripture and I read the following from Proverbs, chapter 17.

“Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.”

Over a year ago, I wrote the following in the margin.

“Asking questions shows more IQ than giving good answers.”

That was one of the first steps on my journey to thinking differently. I took other small steps as I read books, talked with Blaine and others, and reflected on my journal notes. Recently, I read Chris Voss’ book, Never Split the Difference and my thinking came full circle.

Voss was an FBI hostage negotiator. He is convinced that effective persuaders understand the other person before they try to persuade them. Stephen Covey put it this way: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

How do you understand? It’s not by talking, droning on like the deaf professor, even if you have good things to say. You learn by being quiet and paying attention. You sharpen your understanding by asking questions.

So, which shows more intelligence, smart answers or smart questions? I’m now choosing to believe that you’re more likely to build a relationship if you listen, pay attention, and ask good questions.

Enough of my droning on…what do you think about effective communication?


Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.