How do you answer someone’s question?

How do you answer someones question?
Image by jdlasica via Flickr

When you are in the luxury position of people coming to you with a question (luxury because you are ‘ask-worthy’) how do you answer? Do you give the solution to those people or do you give them the handles to solve their own problem? Do you answer those questions or do you tell a story?

Don’t answer questions, tell a story instead
When you are giving the answer, you won’t help those people. You will help them right now, but you won’t help them in the long term. In about two weeks, they will come to you again, with the same type of question. You can’t keep answer the same question to the same people over and over again, there needs to be a long term solution. So, tell a story instead.

Let’s say, someone comes to you with the question: ‘I am the leader of my study group, but my fellow group members aren’t motivated at all to finish their task, how should I get them motivated?’ You can answer with: ‘Tell them that the goal is important and keep telling them over and over again.’ That answer will work, but that guy will come back, because it isn’t a long term solution, you just give them a solution for right now. You can also answer with a story of how you did that with your own study group. This means a longer conversation; you need to explain what you did, why and when. But when you had that talk, the guy won’t come back. He will understand the way you need to think when you want to motivate people.

Look at big speakers, are they answering questions or telling stories?
I would like to take Tim Ferriss’ his talk at WordCamp ‘how to build a high traffic blog without killing yourself‘ as an example. Tim talks about how he made a successful blog, his talk wasn’t about quick tips to get a successful blog (although those tips were in the talk), but he told the audience how he discovered the quick tips. He measured everything, made an optimalized website with good analysis. What makes this talk so great? Not his quick tips, but his awesome way of optimalizing his blog. You learn from his talk that if you want to run a better blog, you need to look at the statistics better.

What I try on this blog
I hope you noticed this already a little bit, I don’t give study tips only. I try to change the way you think with more personal development like topics. I do give study tips, but not exclusively. But on the long term, I hope you guys learn that changing the way you think, experimenting with studying, experiment with living your life gives you the perfect way to study, the perfect way to live. We aren’t the same, so we can’t have the same ways of living, of studying. We need to try things out ourselves.

Try to think first when somebody is asking you a question. What are you going to do? Answer them? Or tell a story? Are you going to answer them in the short term only? Or do you give them a long term solution with improving their thoughts? Good luck.

How do you answer someones question?



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About the author

Stefan Knapen is the founder and big boss of As a 23 year old med student he is trying to become more productive, more successful and more awesome overall in life. Stefan loves coffee, but tea as well. He is currently busy building niche sites and start to create a full-time passive (student) income on the internet!


  1. When someone comes to me with question, I usually give them a framework to solving the problem. I make them figure out the essentials on their own. For example, if someone comes to me with a math problem, I tell them the method to solving the problem. This way, they get knowledge and I get a warm, fuzzy feeling of helping someone. ;)

  2. I really like this post, as this is something I already do in my everyday life. When people ask for advice or need help, I like to tell stories about my experiences. That way, instead of being preachy, arrogant, or dictatorial, I can give them an answer that they will enjoy.
    .-= Joel´s last blog ..Thor’s Day Roundup #5 =-.

  3. Nice Ajay and Joel,

    Good to hear you are already putting this to action!

  4. Hey Stefan,
    Excellent advice. Many professors use story telling to get their point across during lecture. It seems natural to tell a story, and I’d like to think that telling stories helps people retain the main ideas from the lesson.

    Thanks for the great article.
    .-= Jay Willingham – CampusByte´s last blog ..Do What You Love: 5 Steps to Happiness =-.

  5. I like to answer to solve some ones problems and I’d like to think that telling stories helps people retain the main ideas from the lesson.That way, instead of being preachy, arrogant, or dictatorial, I can give them an answer that they will enjoy.


  1. Story Time « TheUniversityBlog
  2. Create irritation: Stop answering questions – StudySuccessful | Living a successful college life

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