Sometimes one simple question can pack a lot of punch. “What do you think?” is that kind of question. Do you ask it of others? Maybe you ask it regularly – or maybe you don’t ask it all because you think you need to have all the answers. Maybe you ask it of a range of people – or maybe you reserve it only for a select few. Maybe you are genuinely curious about others’ opinions – or maybe you could care less. If you don’t ask it – or don’t ask it as much as we should – you are missing opportunities.
“What do you think” asking it accomplishes? It lets others know that you are interested in and/or value their opinion or assessment. This is how meaningful involvement and collaboration builds – we value and seek input from others – and others know their input is valued. In addition, by asking it you encourage critical thinking. “What do you think?” is different from “How do you feel?” Feelings don’t necessarily need justification – but opinions and conclusions do.
Peter Gasca explores the power of this question in his essay, “The One Question You Should Ask that Will Make You A Better Leader”. He talks about how this question helps move people from “problem finders” to “problem solvers.” Identifying problems is a great first step, but not sufficient. Problem-finding without problem-solving leaves the job undone. Imagine if problems dumped on your doorstep came with proposed solutions? Often “problem-finders” have lots of company but “problem-solving” is a lonelier pursuit. Asking “So what do you think we should do about this?” can encourage people to begin thinking about solutions.
Sometimes just the act of asking a simple yet elegant question communicates or accomplishes more than you know. So, what do you think?