You should not ask questions if it matters what the answer is. We are taught early on that asking questions is a great way to learn new things and to progress and it is true. However, if you make your questions too open, you might end up somewhere you do not want to go. Do not open for questions just to be polite and have other’s people voices heard, open up for questions when there is a real need to get answers.
Imagine you did an outstanding presentation to a group of people on how you think you should approach a specific project. And to be kind and inclusive, you decide to ask the question:
So, what should we do next?
You put your fate and that of the project in the goodwill of the people. Since they can now define what will happen next since you asked them, you might have a preference, but that preference is now almost off the table since you asked them what to do next. If the answer is not what you expected, you need to juggle a lot to get it to your original preference.
If you want to narrow it down, you, of course, close some options and ask
Out of options A, B and C, what do you think is the one to pick?
And there you are again, putting your fate into the hands of others. Not as horrible as the previous question, now at least you know the options, but you probably do not love options A, B and C equally. If your group goes for option A and you wanted option C, well, start your stakeholder management already to get where you originally wanted to be.
If you care a lot about the answer, do not give people the option to change it. If instead of your question, you will tell them:
These are the five next steps and this is your role I see.
What happens is that you might have a conversation on the direction, and you might also get some suggestions in case they would change something. However, it is still all in your hands, and you can decide what happens next. Hint: intelligent people always listen, even when they think they are right.
Don’t ask questions if you have a strong feeling about the answer. Ask questions when you either do not care what the answer should be or/and when you need others to provide input and impact what happens next based on their response.