Wie stellt man eigentlich eine Frage?

Ein guter Vorsatz für das nächste Semester: Diesen Text mehrfach ausdrucken und unauffällig in Räumen auslegen, in denen historische Kolloquien stattfinden. Oder Konferenzen. Tagungen. Vorträge. Oder Seminare:

The best reason to ask a question is to contribute to the quality of the discussion that has already begun. You can do this if you can draw something more and perhaps unexpected out of the speaker you are addressing. “Mr. Rasputin, I admire your tunic. Do you consider fashion to be a revolutionary statement?”

Think of yourself as someone who seeks to enhance the occasion, rather than as an opportunity to show yourself to advantage. “Mr. Darwin, your description of odd wildlife in the Galapagos Islands is fascinating. Do you think evolution works differently on large continents?”

You have not been invited to give a speech. Before you stand up, boil your thoughts down to a single point. Then ask yourself if this point is something you want to assert or something you want to find out. There are exceptions, but if your point falls into the category of assertion, you should probably remain seated. “Mr. Nixon, you are unworthy of being president,” is not a question. “Mr. Nixon, what else would you have done as president if Watergate hadn’t gotten in the way?” is a question.

Question periods are not really the right time to ask for factual details. You are not interviewing the speaker. “Mr. Hillary, what brand of shoes were you wearing when you topped Everest?” is a real question but not one that is likely to enhance the discussion. There are exceptions to this, as when the fact you ask about evokes a larger meaning.  “Mr. Hillary, what do you consider was the most important piece of equipment you carried in your assault on Mt. Everest?”


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