Can you tell the difference between Statements and Questions?

I am sure that if I asked you if you can tell the difference between statements and questions you would be offended by the mere question and respond with “Of Course!”

However, based on my experience of working with hundreds of teams in many organizations, I have to tell you that people don’t know the difference between the two.

You would think that people understand that the appropriate and effective thing to do in conversations and meetings is to “Answer questions” and “Acknowledge statements“. However, in reality, most people tend to “Answer statements” and “Acknowledge questions.” To be honest, people often simply “Ignore questions“.

If you want your meetings to take less time, move faster and be much more productive and satisfying follow this seemingly simple rule…

I frequently hear people say, “I’d like to ask a question” and then they go on and on expressing their opinion with no question in sight. At times, when this happens, I stop the person and ask: “So, what is your question?” Typically, everyone cracks up, because they all realize the obvious.

At other times, when a real and clear question is asked, I hear others talk in length without ever answering the question. I often stop the conversation and ask: “Would you please answer the question“, people crack up about that too.

I also frequently hear people say “I would like to respond to what the other person said” as if they are answering an urgent question when no question was asked and even when not responding to someone else’s opinion when no question was asked and when their opinion doesn’t contribute value to the dialogue. People seem to be quite unconscious and reactive in most conversations.

If you want your conversations to be more powerful and effective and your meetings to be shorter, more productive and more enjoyable, start paying attention to these distinctions and adhere to the following four simple common-sense principles:

  1. If someone says, “I’d like to ask a question” and they go on without a question, stop them (politely) and ask “so, what is your question?”
  2. If someone expresses their opinion, at the end of their opening simply say, “Thank you” or “Thank you for sharing” and move on. Do not react to what someone else had said.
  3. If you feel you must express your opinion after someone else’s opinion, simply say: “I would like to build upon what X said” or “I would like to offer another view on the matter.” Don’t react to what someone else has said. There is room in the conversation for more than one opinion or truth.
  4. If someone asks a “yes” or “no” type question – for example:Do you think we should do this?” or “Do you agree with my view?” just answer with a “yes” or “no”. Hold back your temptation to go on about it. If they ask you to explain or elaborate, then, of course, do so.


Founder and President of Quantum Performance Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in generating total alignment and engagement in organizations.

His work has encompassed a broad range of industries including banking, telecommunications, manufacturing, entertainment, real estate, retail, startups and non-profits.

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