If you will recall, when we were in school we learned that there are different kinds of sentence structures. We learned about declarative sentences that usually end with a period. We learned about imperative statements that are a little stronger and end with an exclamation point. We also learned of the interrogative sentence that ends with a question mark. By looking at the punctuation at the end of a sentence, we were taught to recognize the kind of sentence it was and how to best use it when writing. In my opinion, the interrogative sentence (the one that ends with a question mark) is the best kind of sentence we can use and I will tell you why.
There are two reasons I believe the interrogative sentence is so important:
1. It causes us to listen. – After we ask someone a question, it positions them to answer the question and gives us the opportunity to listen. Then, when we have asked a person a question, we should be courteous enough to listen to what they have to say about what we asked them. I am sure you have heard the old cliché: We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we talk.
2. It makes a person think. – Questions make us think about our answer. It is amazing what happens when you stop to think! Regardless of what you know about something, additional thinking is always an advantage to your current situation or circumstances.
I have been told that the power of any conversation is found in the question. I believe when a question has been asked, that is when real thinking and real learning has its greatest opportunity to occur. Let me give you an example.
I am not known for driving a spotless car. I am just not that kind of “neat freak”. I realize that some people are, and that is fine with me! However, my car had gotten pretty dirty, so a few days ago I decided to take it through a local carwash. When I was making my choice about which carwash to use, I noticed one choice was having a special where I could get “the works” for only $15. Since my car was filthy, I decided that I had better get “the works”. After going through the carwash, I pulled my car over to the area where I could vacuum the interior. When I got out of my vehicle, I noticed that there were several dirty spots still on my car and the automated carwash had not cleaned it very well. I also began to ask myself the question, “Why am I vacuuming out the car? I thought that was included in the price of ‘the works’.” So, I walked over to the teen-age boy who was running the car wash and politely asked, “Would you come over and take a look at my car? I bought ‘the works’ package and I would like to know what you think.” As he walked with me to the car, the first thing he did was ask me a question. He said, “If you bought ‘the works’ package, why did you park your car over here? This is where you vacuum the car out yourself. You were supposed to park it over there, (and he pointed to another part of the carwash area). That is the area where we vacuum your car out for you.” He then drove my car over to the correct area and began to clean it out. After a few minutes he said, “This car is not very clean. I don’t believe that the carwash machine did a very good job. I am going to take it through again.” He not only proceeded to take the car through the carwash again, but after he finished, he and a couple of his buddies cleaned it from one end to the other. I was amazed! I believe I got more than my money’s worth. I thanked them for their good attention to detail and hard work.
Now, if you look back on that story, you will see all of that happened because of one interrogative sentence being asked. I could have said something like this to the boy: “I don’t think your carwash is very good. Your machines don’t work very well.” Or, “The carwash machine didn’t do much of a job on my vehicle!” Did you notice that all of those sentences end with periods or exclamation points? None of them would have done any good. They would have only created ill will or contention. When I used a simple interrogative sentence (with polite voice tones) which ended in a question mark, everything changed. You see, it gave me the opportunity to listen and it gave him the opportunity to think. I know this sounds so very simple, but the difference in the results is so very remarkable!
Let me encourage you to take a look at your sentence structures. Do they end with a period, exclamation point, or a question mark? When you are talking to your children, a spouse, a friend, or a business associate this week, why not try using more questions? It will give you the opportunity to listen more effectively and it will give them the opportunity to do more thinking. It will be a win/win situation for everyone involved.
I believe this is one of the most important concepts I have ever learned in my life! Questions can change the whole dynamics of a conversation and put you and the other person in a posture to build a better relationship, friendship or business association.
Remember, the key is to look at the punctuation at the end of a sentence. If it does not end in a question mark, then I believe you are selling yourself short and not creating the best communication possible. Try it and you will see what I mean. Will you use this Tip this week? (See what I mean?)
Tip: Questions are better than statements!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm