I hate listening to (most) people ask questions.
I say this as a ravenous consumer of podcasts that often feature Q & A sessions with live audiences. Whether in the comedic format of something like How Did This Get Made? in which audience members ask questions of the show’s roundtable or the more business-minded format of The Gary Vee Audio Experience in which individuals -in both one-on-one and large audience settings- get to query the host, it is clear to me that people are consistently really bad at asking questions.
I have kind of known this for many years having spent plenty of time in graduate school seminars in which grad students use questions as vessels for longwinded, often-unrelated orations meant almost entirely to make themselves feel smarter.
The same thing happens at academic conferences, as well. Oh, and in faculty meetings.
However, while I knew this ego-stroking practice existed in my world of often self-important, but unconfident nerds, I had overlooked the fact that it exists everywhere else, too.
And so, with that, let me say that asking a question is a skill you should develop. Whether it be for a job interview where you are on either side of the table, a professional conversation in which you are trying to learn more about a potential employer, or at a work conference where you would like to ask the keynote speaker something interesting, remember that the act of asking the question is not about you.
The question is not an opportunity for you to sound smart, to pontificate on the future of social media, to enumerate all the great books or articles you’ve read, or to showcase how great of a leader you are. No, the question more often than not -especially in the professional or public space in which you are clearly an audience member- should be an opportunity for you to learn something from an expert, but through the act of inquiring trigger an answer that will bring value to all who are listening.
In other words, keep it short and to the point. Unless you’re the one on stage or in front of the camera, no one wants to hear your thoughts on government surveillance.