Ever think about how to get the knowledge you seek? Two guidelines may help. Be clear about the information you want and be mindful that the way you ask questions may determine the results you get.

If you seek facts, a direct question will yield a verifiable answer – what is the voting age? If you ask a closed-ended question – did you vote? – the response may be clear and quick (yes or no) but may end the conversation.

Inquiry is important to expanding our lives, and open-ended questions serve that purpose best. The following question stimulates a variety of possibilities: What would it take to maximize voting participation?

My sister introduced me to an organization that trains people from all walks of life to ask better questions and participate more effectively in decisions that affect them. The Right Questions Institute has developed a question formulation process that works with schools, community organizations, health providers, businesses and families. You can learn more at their website.

Some questions can lead us into the most important answers we seek in life, inquiries of the heart – why am I here? what is happiness? how can I make a difference? For the answers to these life-defining questions Stephen Mitchell counsels us well in his translation of advice to a young poet from Rainer Maria Rilke.

Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves… Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.