Sometimes, all you want are answers. You might feel that your questions are simple, but still find it very difficult to get a straight answer that you can understand out of people. Although that may be a sign of bad communication on the part of people answering you, it could also be that you are not asking in the right way.
Here are a few tips for how to get people to answer your questions:
1. Ask several people
This works in several ways. First, if you require a piece of information, it could be that the person you ask first genuinely doesn’t know the answer. Also, however, sometimes even if you just want an opinion, it is better to get this from several people. That way, you get an idea of the consensus of opinion.
These days, with the ease of using emails or instant messenger, you should have no trouble with asking your questions of several people at one time or at least very quickly.
2. State a wrong answer
Sometimes people who won’t willingly stick their neck out and give you what they think is an answer however they will have no problem with setting you straight if they think you’ve got it wrong!
This method works particularly well (perhaps unfortunately) in an email that is addressed to several people, as human nature makes people want to show off and be the first to show everyone they know the answer. Don’t be worried about that. No-one can know everything and not knowing this particular point should not be taken as a sign of weakness in you at all.
3. Ask important questions
If you want a proper, sensible answer from people, don’t insult their intelligence or waste their time with useless questions. If you can easily find out an answer by doing a bit of research yourself, do that, rather than asking other people.
That way, you know that the questions you ask other people are genuine and worthwhile. Ask questions which get right to the heart of what you want to know. That will also motivate people to want to help you out with the answers.
4. Be specific with your questions
This will help people to answer your questions with the correct information. Also, if people don’t understand your question they may be deterred from trying to answer you at all. There’s nothing in it for them to bother asking you to clarify yourself and they won’t want to look foolish by answering the wrong question, so they won’t bother to answer you at all.
5. Ask the right person
First you should ask yourself, and make sure you find out everything you can about the issue that puzzles you. By gathering knowledge, you can pick away at what you don’t understand and arrive at a very specific question. Then it’s time to look for an expert or at least someone with personal experience, to answer your specific question.
6. Learn from the answers
People love to be asked questions, because it compliments them. It suggests you respect them and see them as a knowledgeable person. However, no-one wants to be referred to time and time again as if they were a perpetual fountain of all knowledge. They also don’t want to see that you did nothing about the answers they gave you.
Therefore, you should make a record of any answers, if you are likely to forget them. Then act on the answers. Of course, you may disagree with some answers you get, so of course you won’t implement those, but you should at least be prepared to defend your decision regarding this, if you are asked by the person that advised you. And do it politely. Show that you respected their answer but felt it was not quite right for you.
To review, how to get people to answer your questions? You ask good questions, get useful answers, and you make the answerer feel good and positive about the communication with you, so they will be willing to answer more of your questions when and if they arise in the future.