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ELEMENTARY, IT'S NOT

The counterintuitive tricks to asking better questions, according to Harvard research

A life-size bronze figure of British author Arthur Conan Doyle's character, the detective Sherlock Holmes created by artist John Doubleday 1988 is pictured on the main square in the town of Meiringen
Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann
Be shrewd.
  • Lila MacLellan
By Lila MacLellan

Quartz at Work reporter

This article is more than 2 years old.

Having the ability to ask a question appears to be a uniquely human trait, one that saves us time and energy as we gather resources and information. It also allows us to develop empathy for others and create bonds of trust, even among strangers. Indeed, people who ask more questions are seen as more likable.

And yet many of us don’t ask enough questions, nor the right ones, according to research from Harvard Business School.

Writing in the latest issue of Harvard Business Review, HBS assistant professor Alison Wood Brooks and HBS associate professor Leslie John, who both study negotiations and organizational behavior, argue that we hold back our queries too often, fearful that we’ll seem ill-informed or offensive, or perhaps believing we already have the answers we need.

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