The Power of Questions

I’m a few days behind on the Quest. when I received Dacher Keltner‘s prompt on Thursday, it felt like too big a question to answer immediately.  It required simmering time. Here’s what he asked:

In your work life, your personal life, and in your community, how will you use power as a force for good, and empower those around you in specific acts that make up your day?

I happened to have management training at work that afternoon. When I see the phrase about empowering others, I can’t help but think of my relatively new role as a people-manager at the office. I definitely want to empower and encourage the people on my team. but the question above is about the how more than the who

How will I empower those around me? I’ll ask more questions. 

It is an eyeroll worthy understatement to say I’m something of a know-it-all. Hermione Granger is my spirit animal. I am also very decisive, and I want to get things done quickly and efficiently.

This means that I often dis-empower those around me by making a decision without asking any questions.  I’m not giving them room to have their own ideas. I’m not giving them room to understand or own a project. I’m just dividing up tasks and moving on.

Questions give room for other ideas to emerge. For better, different solutions to arise. Questions are open, and full of curiosity.

Questions share power, and invite others into power.

Questions take longer. They require patience and time – neither of which I’m particularly known to have. And they are worth the investment.

How will I use power as a force for good? I’ll respond, rather than react. 

Another thing that takes longer is to let myself fully think through an answer and to give myself time to really come up with a response.  I have a high-volume, high-stress, fast-paced job. I’m constantly being asked for solutions, recommendations, ideas, and answers. Some things can be answered with a “shoot and move” approach. Most can be answered that way, and shouldn’t be.

My boss continually gives me the feedback that I need to slow down, think through things, and then offer a full recommendation. I don’t think this just applies to work.

To Empower Myself? Avoid Decision Fatigue.

The first time I really understood the deteriorated thinking and bad choices that are part of decision fatigue was during my wedding planning process.  I answered so many questions, and I was so damned tired of making decisions, that I didn’t realize I was making decisions that weren’t mine to make. Instead of asking questions (see above), and instead of slowing down to really think and respond,  I was saying “yes, no, yes, yes, no, that one, this one,” in a neverending stream of choices. I practically made decisions in my sleep.

This lack of judgement, time, care and energy resulted in one of my dear friends misunderstanding my intentions. I had six or seven people asking me what they should wear to the wedding , and one of them was the friend I’d asked to be my biggest, girliest help in the wedding. I wasn’t going to have bridesmaids, but I did need help, and I trusted her taste and opinion utterly.

When the day of the rehearsal came, she asked when she needed to be there – and it was then – the day of the wedding rehearsal – that I learned she thought she would be my bridesmaid, and she learned she wouldn’t be.  I hadn’t asked enough questions. I’d answered her questions about her dress without thinking. I’d reacted, not responded, and I’d moved right past her intentions into “Yes, that one, fine.”   I also hadn’t communicated and reiterated my plans with her. Needless to say, it was upsetting for both of us.

Decision fatigue can be devastating. Knee-jerk reactions can be devastating. My best way to reclaim my personal power is to take time and really let myself ponder and respond.


4 thoughts on “The Power of Questions

  1. Pingback: Chemicals React. People Respond. | A.K. Anderson

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  3. Pingback: How Will You Show That We Are All Connected? | A.K. Anderson

  4. Pingback: New Year’s Rituals | Alicia K. Anderson

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