Ask More: The Power of Questions to Open Doors, Uncover Solutions, and Spark Change by Frank Sesno (forwarded by Wolf Blitzer) takes the reader on a journey on how to ask great questions in certain situations. Frank Sesno is an expert storyteller, and it shows in this book. It’s easy to pick out one or two golden nuggets of information and apply it to my professional world.
Asking questions is more than trying to find out what’s going on. There are different types of questions that depend on your situation. Sesno dives into the art of questioning in his informative narrative.
Sesno starts by talking about a reporter asking hard questions during a press briefing. He expresses his desire to know the truth and to be a great journalist. Great journalists ask great questions. He then outlines the chapters by the types of questions he asks in specific situations. Here are the questions that he’ll ask:
Diagnostic questions. You’re asking about what’s wrong to fix something.
Strategic questions. These help you see the big picture in your life so you can make tough decisions.
Empathy questions. You want to understand how another feels, so ask these questions during an emotional time.
Bridging questions. Sometimes, you’ll interact with people who don’t like you. These questions help bridge a gap to establish a more friendly relationship.
Confrontational questions. These are your hostile questions. You want answers and aren’t interested in building trust.
Creativity questions. Use these when you’re trying to inspire yourself or others to take risks and be creative.
Mission questions. You’re looking for people who share your values and goals, and asking these questions will help understand who shares what you believe.
Scientific questions. Here’s where you implement the scientific method. These questions provoke experimentation and process to get to a result.
Interview questions. Just like a job interview, these questions determine compatibility or competence for a task or career.
Entertaining questions. Sesno used the example of a host asking thought-provoking questions to entertain his guests. These are entertaining if asked correctly.
Legacy questions. These questions invoke memories and reflection. Ask these questions to draw out answers from life’s experiences.
His book outline was easy to follow. I got the audiobook, and Sesno did an excellent job at narrating. The concepts he explained weren’t too involved. The most complicated part of the book was the section on bridging questions. It’s not that he did a poor job explaining it; instead, I think these are the most difficult types of questions to ask.
What I liked
He talked about several of his reporting experiences in his book. I felt like I moved with the book like I was his assistant. Sesno wrote as if I experienced these things myself in some cases. The most vivid example he gave was about entertaining questions and how hosts will ask questions to entertain guests. Although I have been to several house parties, I have never thought about questions being a form of entertainment. It was enlightening to me.
Also, Sesno brought out the implications of each set of questions. For example, he talked about how competitive questions don’t always build relationships, but you need answers for the record. All actions have consequences, and Sesno articulated that very well. Sometimes, he needed to get a hard truth out of someone, but the person is usually reluctant. Regardless, Sesno was willing to ask the hard questions.
Frequently, we don’t picture journalists as very empathetic, but that was my favorite chapter in the book. Sesno brought out the emotion in that chapter, and I was impressed. His emphasis on listening caught my attention. He talked about long-time relationships with people where he used empathetic questions. One story he told was a daughter talking to her father about a sensitive topic, and that she used empathetic questions to invoke a tender response.
I have a soft spot for people who listen more than they talk. It makes for more engaging conversations, and Sesno emphasizes that listening is more important than talking with empathy questions. Further, he emphasizes boldness in speaking when needed.
What I didn’t like
I felt like his stories were too short. He provided good detail in what he said, but he could have elaborated more in some areas. Sesno is an expert communicator. Professional communicators like Sesno are masters at crafting stories that are rich in detail. But I felt like he left some things out that could have added to his writing. There was always something leftover that I couldn’t figure out what was missing.
Also, some chapters felt hollow. I don’t remember the mission or creativity questions chapters. They weren’t as memorable as the other ones. I have been in the Army for a while, and I learned more from the empathy chapter than I did from the mission or strategic chapters. For a casual audience, it’s challenging to remember the content in multiple sections. Some become easily forgettable. He ran that risk, and for the most part, it paid off with these exceptions.
His writing was a lot like reading a Twitter feed. His sentences were short, and his paragraphs weren’t too long. That’s a blessing and a curse because if you’re explaining a complex topic like asking questions, I hoped he would elaborate more on some sections (i.e., the mission and creativity sections). Again, there are pros and cons to this. He wasn’t writing a peer-reviewed article. Instead, he wanted to reach the masses with his ideas. Despite my grievance, I believe he achieved his goal of the book.
Sesno brought my mind alive! He’s an engaging writer and a bold reporter. Plus, having Wolf Blitzer do the forward was the icing on the cake.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn how to ask questions. It’s a quick read (or listen), and you can refer back to it easily when needed. This one is one for the home library. You can buy the book here.
My rating: 7/10
Have you read this book? Let me know what you think in the comment section down below. Thank you for reading!