Six-Year-Olds Question EVERYTHING – Why Don’t We?

When is the last time you were questioned by a six-year-old? After spending some time with one you will be reminded (over and over again!) of how important questions are in the knowledge-gaining process.

A six-year-old’s mind is a pasture ripe for sowing. Its nerve cells are like rows and rows of freshly tilled soil just waiting for a seed to drop. Many of the seeds have dropped already, but it is at this stage where six-year-olds begin to learn they have some control over what they pull into their young minds.

They attract the seeds of knowledge by asking questions. To adults, these questions may seem tedious, overused, and oh so repetitive, but they are all critical to the learning process of a youngster.

There’s so much space to fill in young minds and I believe, intuitively they know it. The questions keep on coming!

But, all of that changes as we get older. The questions slow as we create patterns in our nervous system. Habits get formed; our brains LOVE habits. They don’t have to work so hard when we repeat behaviors. We tend to feel like we’re ‘experts’ in so many different areas. We may even believe we know all we need to know about things. And if we know it all, we don’t have to ask questions anymore.

And therein lies a problem ... since the world around us changes every day, it’s more important than ever for us to question everything.

Have you ever been in a conversation and struggled with what to ask next? Guess what? The most successful communicators don't have that problem. The most successful communicators ask one question and stop talking at the question mark. Bet you're thinking, "Easy! I can do that!" It's actually tougher to do than it seems.

Many of us have gotten in the habit of "helping" people on the other end of our conversations by providing them with multiple-choice questions. There's a good place for multiple-choice questions, and that's in school in written exams designed to test someone's knowledge of a topic. In order to fairly judge knowledge of a subject, teachers mix the type of questions asked. Effective tests are sprinkled with a combination of true/false, multiple choice, and essay questions.

Think for a minute about your goal in conversations. Is it to ‘test’ people on their knowledge in an area? Are you there to play a game of ‘gotcha’ with them?

Your goal should not be to test knowledge. It should be to engage, share, discover, and most importantly ... get someone else to do the talking.

How can you engage and discover using multiple-choice questions? If you approach all of your conversations with options, what you're actually doing is putting words in their mouths. Here's an example:

"So, what are you doing for vacation this year? Are you traveling or staying local? Seeing family or friends? Planning to go out a lot or staying in?"

We started off well with a nice essay question and then quickly spiraled into multiple choices. In true give-and-take, two-way conversations, much more information will be exchanged and new knowledge gained if all parties can participate in the conversation.

Imagine a mental tennis ball bouncing between the participants as you converse. You can only pass the ball when you ask a good essay question. If you ask multiple-choice questions, you're effectively bouncing the ball at the service line. A tennis match in which the players continuously bounce the ball to themselves would become boring and monotonous, and never get anywhere.

Keep everyone involved in your conversations. Learn how to stop at the first question mark and allow your partner equal playing time. C'mon ... pass the ball!