Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Questions and The Question Makers

The topic for the last newsletter (you really should subscribe) was how to earn the right be an authority via the consent of your readers. A subscriber emailed the following question:

Whore, at the risk of losing my authority, I have a question.

You wrote: "those who end a statement of fact with a question, such as, "We had a good meeting, didn't we?" ...these (dreadful) habits undermine not only the statement of fact or opinion, but the person delivering the message as well. If the speaker isn't sure of himself, why should anyone else be?" Does this mean I shouldn't ask questions in public?

Just call me "Curious About Questions"

Curious, and others, you can & should ask questions which encourage discussion and participation (something every writer wants), but not at the expense of your authority.

In my example, "We had a good meeting, didn't we?", it's clear that the speaker/writer isn't sure enough of his/her own opinion of the meeting and so calls for others not just as back-up but for the final word. This is a bad tone when trying to make an authoritative stance.

Let's say that the context of the conversation was regarding the convention attendance fees and the author was trying to get reader participation. The writer would be better off stating their opinion, and then pose a question for readers. Then the question would be after an assertion. For example: "I found the one meeting alone was worth the fees. What was your experience?"

This does not mean you shouldn't pose questions that you don't have the answers (or opinions) for ~ in fact is it my opinion that admitting you don't know everything is a great way to show integrity. (Acknowledging that you don't know everything, that your open to more information, that you're willing to seek what you do not know, and that you are aware that others may have other experiences is a good thing.) But continually speaking from a place of uncertainty, especially about yourself and the area you profess to know, will not garner much faith.

It's best to keep your questions to information seeking; you ought to leave a reader with a question to answer rather than leave them with questions about you as an authority.

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