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Thread: Questions about questions

  1. #1
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Questions about questions

    Ever notice that there are certain classes/types of questions that inevitably emerge during every Q&A portion of a session you’ve ever been to (or, heck, just about any educational setting, for that matter)?

    • know-it-all “questions”. Questions is in quotes because this really isn’t any sort of question at all being posed, so much as someone taking an opportunity to attempt to create the impression to everyone else in attendance that wow, this person sure is knowledgeable.. Often these soliloquies are posed in the form of a statement with perhaps a slight raising of pitch at the end of the sentence to suggest it’s a query, but let’s be blunt - they really don’t give a crap about any answer that’s given. Quite common to hear these either prefaced by a “isn’t it true that…..?” or appended with a “….,wouldn’t you agree?”

    • ‘validation questions’. These are typically rather lengthy questions that are quite detailed and heavily laden with situational qualifiers that pretty much removes the utility of any response to a general audience, and are almost certainly applicable to a particular circumstance or decision that you can tell the questioner once faced personally. What this individual really wants to ask is did I do the right thing?

    • The ‘clueless questions’. Let’s be clear, no one expects folks attending an educational session to have complete understanding of a topic. We ask questions so that we may clarify our individual understanding. In life, however, there are times we encounter folks whose questions belie such an utterly complete mis-apprehension of a subject, one finds themselves wondering ‘huh, what the f*** did s/he just ask? or ‘why is this person even in the room?’

    • The ‘scrapper questions’. This individual is probably better informed on a topic than most, but when s/he (yeah, I threw in the obligatory s/he non-gender-specific indicator, but let’s be honest it’s almost always a guy) poses a question, it’s with an aim to ‘trap’ the instructor and engage them in a debate on a topic.

    Any other patterns associated with questions or questioning that you’ve observed? Which type of question do you most despise, dread, or alternately, enjoy?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    "Nice grouping"

    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Ever notice that there are certain classes/types of questions that inevitably emerge during every Q&A portion of a session you’ve ever been to (or, heck, just about any educational setting, for that matter)?

    • know-it-all “questions”.
    • ‘validation questions’.
    • The ‘clueless questions’.
    • The ‘scrapper questions’.

    Any other patterns associated with questions or questioning that you’ve observed? Which type of question do you most despise, dread, or alternately, enjoy?
    As Frederick Frankenstein (or was it "Froe-derick?") says in "Young Frankenstein" - "Nice grouping!" You have certainly gotten me thinking back on my own experience ...am I the only person that must - reluctantly - admit to committing each of the crimes at some point in my life - or is that simply a factor of age? And yet - I'm still driven to hypertension when one of them emerges!

    Off to a seminar tomorrow - where I will make sure to tally - and possibly discover new forms.

    I'm not sure whether I can think of any additional types that wouldn't already qualify as sub-phyla of your current list! Great job in categorizing - I'm sure this will provoke some fond rememberances for a lot of people!

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Tom R's avatar
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    ?

    "A question ain't really a question when you know the answer too." John Prine

  4. #4
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by MCasey View post
    I'm not sure whether I can think of any additional types that wouldn't already qualify as sub-phyla of your current list! Great job in categorizing - I'm sure this will provoke some fond rememberances for a lot of people!
    Notably absent from my list are 'genuine questions with no ulterior motives'. But what's the fun in talking about that?

    Quote Originally posted by Tom R
    "A question ain't really a question when you know the answer too." John Prine
    Mrs. Maister was helping prep me for a cross-exam one time and said "a good lawyer knows never to ask a question in a trial that they don't already know the answer to (or at least have a response prepared regardless of how you answer")
    Last edited by Maister; 04 May 2011 at 3:10 PM. Reason: sequential response

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    I'm convinced that certain local board members keep asking staff more and more detailed questions until you don't know the answer. You want to roll your eyes and say "Fine, you got me - after answering four other quetsions I don't know what the Building Code requirement was for door thickness in 1920!"

  6. #6
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Tom R View post
    "A question ain't really a question when you know the answer too." John Prine
    I've had Commissioners that loved to do this. They didn't want to say it and be the bad guy, so they would pose the question to staff. We didn't mind, because we could usually anticipate the question and always had an answer ready--made us look more professional and prepared. I guess it is like an adaptation of the know-it-all technique.

    Of the types you list, its the know-it-all questions that drive me nuts. Usually because they don't know. Even then, I tend to relish correcting them.

    Scrapper questions don't bother me, as I'm pretty skilled at redirecting/heading-off and preventing an all-out debate.

    I enjoy the clueless questions, mainly because they provide comedy at staff meetings afterward. You just better have a good poker face, because people don't like it if you let on that you think they are clueless and will make phone calls (poor co-worker got nailed for this once).

    Strangely, it has been I while since I've gotten a validation-style question. I used to get those "what ifs" all the time at my prior job.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

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    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post

    • The ‘scrapper questions’. This individual is probably better informed on a topic than most, but when s/he (yeah, I threw in the obligatory s/he non-gender-specific indicator, but let’s be honest it’s almost always a guy) poses a question, it’s with an aim to ‘trap’ the instructor and engage them in a debate on a topic.
    I see these ALL the time in this line of work. I've found that lots of people get off on making the planner look like a moron, and if you answer with 'Well, I'll have to get back to you on that', you look like a boob. You can't win in this situation, because if you say the wrong thing, the questioner will then go to the powers that be and say 'YOUR planner told me X, are you now telling me that he/she was incorrect and therefore incompetent?'

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    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    There is also the question I like to use, the "Why are you asking me this question?" question. Nearly every phone conversation I have with the public starts with them asking me some goofy leading question, and I almost always respond by saying "What is it you are trying to accomplish?"

    Annoying, because half the time I'm not the person they need. Or this person feels the need to explain to me how difficult their life is now that they have to *fill out a permit and pay a fee*.

    One question you never want to hear over the phone: (I explained earlier that I have only heard this once while I was a telemarketer) Where are you right now?
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

  9. #9
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HomerJ9139 View post
    There is also the question I like to use, the "Why are you asking me this question?" question. Nearly every phone conversation I have with the public starts with them asking me some goofy leading question, and I almost always respond by saying "What is it you are trying to accomplish?"

    Annoying, because half the time I'm not the person they need. Or this person feels the need to explain to me how difficult their life is now that they have to *fill out a permit and pay a fee*.
    I believe on a recent thread ursus wryly noted these folks aren't so much seeking answers as they are people to hate on.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    I believe on a recent thread ursus wryly noted these folks aren't so much seeking answers as they are people to hate on.
    That is definitely true and it kind of blew my mind at first since this seems to be a comman occurance everywhere! Oh well, at least we can find out right off the bat if it's going to be a complete buII$^@t conversation, then turn on autopilot.
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    "Let's look at this from 30,000 feet..."

    OK - I did finally manage to think of something - but I think it falls more into the "know-it-all" category.

    What about the person that prefaces their question with: "I think we need to take a look at this from the 30,000 foot level..." implying that s/he would really like to be seen as a "facilitator" of a much broader discussion? And implying that the discussion up to this point has been mired in trivial details - and engaged in by trivial people! I'm thinking the phrase is some sort of "management guru" lingo that has slowly diffused into all parts of our life.

    In my experience, the person who uses the phrase doesn't typically follow it with a real question and seems to have parachuted into the conversation - my most recent experiences with it also involve a quick exit by "the high flyer" in order to maintain their "sage" aura.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Mrs. Maister was helping prep me for a cross-exam one time and said "a good lawyer knows never to ask a question in a trial that they don't already know the answer to (or at least have a response prepared regardless of how you answer")
    My father, who was a lawyer said the very same thing. A lawyer can lose a case by asking a question he isn't prepared for. He told me his opposing counsel did this once - asking what he thought was the nail in the coffin. Turned out the witness did provide the nail for the coffin, just not for my father's case.

    A perfect example in the movies is in "Anatomy of a Murder," when Dancer (George C. Scott) asks the woman testifiying what was the nature of her relationship with the deceased. He thinks she is his mistress but she tells him that she was his daughter. The wind is knocked out of Dancer's sails and he never fully recovers.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    I was on the call-in radio show this morning. I only got two questions, and both were about situations I had gone over with the responsible staff person the day before. I was able to definitively answer the questions and managed to look informed and on top of things.

    Looking at it from 30,000 feet, I was damned lucky, wouldn't you agree?

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