Do you have a question about questions?

I have always been fascinated by the “Dear Annie” Mailbox-concept where anyone can ask an expert for advice. But until a week ago I had never thought about how it feels to be the expert receiving questions from strangers in different parts of the world.

When I received this message, I realized: It feels amazing!

“Hi Pia…

I just watched your TED talk and thank you again. I am married to a very introverted man, to whom I ask trivial questions (I now realize) all the time with the intent of connecting. But while he enjoys being at the gym, he doesn't really want to talk about the gym. I know this, but until now it didn't really click. I will find a different way in. :)

But I have a question about questions, languages, and the appearance of intelligence as you mentioned in your comments on curiosity. Right now, I’m preparing for a telephone interview taking place in a couple of hours for a job and the person interviewing me is Czech and speaks Czech German Polish Slovak Spanish.

Of course, he may expect me to ask questions but my reading about him indicates that he’s not a professional hiring manager and may be new to interviewing.

So, would you say that a question from me like, “What do you want me to accomplish in the first year for me to be successful in this role?“, which are well received in English, be taken differently by him? Could he interpret that as me not knowing what I’ll be expected to do?”

Here is my answer:


Thanks for your message. I am very glad you liked my TED Talk.

I don't have a lot of experience in the job interview area, but yes, I would say there is a risk that "What do you want me to accomplish in the first year for me to be successful in this role?" could be interpreted as you not knowing what you'll be expected to do.

Maybe you could think of another way of putting it, so the question is not so much about you and what you are expected to do/accomplish as it is about the task/problem you are supposed to solve?

My studies show that Danish and English speaking people primarily use questions to impose responsibility on others while Spanish and Chinese speaking people primarily use questions to take responsibility themselves, and Russian and German speaking people use questions to empower shared responsibility.

These differences suggests that you might want to formulate your question(s) in a way that emphasizes a focus on successful problem-solving rather than you being a success.

I don't know if that is of any help, but I wish you the best of luck!

Best, Pia"

If you also have questions about questions, don't hesitate to write me an email at I would love to give it a shot 💛

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