Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman is the bestselling author of books on business, entrepreneurship, skill acquisition, productivity, creativity, applied psychology, and practical wisdom. About Josh »

How to Ask Useful Questions

Asking useful questions is a skill, and it requires practice.

Inexperienced or naive questions sound like this:

"Hello! [Insert life story.] What should I do?"

Or this:

"I'm thinking about [action]. What do you think?"

Questions like these make a few critical mistakes:

As a result, questions like these go unanswered due to Friction - answering them would take too much effort, so the recipient doesn't bother.

If you want useful answers, learn to ask better questions. In most cases, you'll need to tailor the form of the question to the type of information you're seeking.

Asking for Information

"I'm interested in more information about A, and I found you via B. Are you the best person to ask about this?"

Keys to information-seeking questions:

Asking for Clarification

"Based on our conversation about A, it sounds like B is the case. Is that correct?"

Keys to clarification questions:

Asking for Help

"I'm trying to A, and I'm having trouble. So far, I've tried B with result C, and D with result E. Now I'm stuck. Any guidance?"

Keys for asking for assistance:

Asking for Agreement

"Based on our previous conversation about X, we decided Y is the best solution. The next step is Z. Agreed? If so, I'll get started right away."

Keys for asking for agreement:

Asking for Advice

"I'm working on A. My priorities are B, C, and D. I'm considering E, but I'm not sure it's the best option. If you have a moment, I'd appreciate your thoughts. If not, no worries. Thanks!"

Keys for asking for advice:


Are you asking useful questions? What type of question do you currently have the most trouble asking? How can you practice asking in a useful way?

Read more guides by Josh Kaufman »

Books by Josh Kaufman

The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

The First 20 Hours

How to Learn Anything… Fast!

A practitioner’s guide to rapid skill acquisition. Accelerate your learning by deconstructing complex skills, practicing the most important elements first, and removing barriers to deliberate practice. What do you want to learn?

How to Fight a Hydra

Face Your Fears, Pursue Your Ambitions, and Become the Hero You Are Destined to Be

A story about summoning the courage to face the beast, fight the good fight, & persist long enough in your efforts to secure a lasting victory.