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From Where We Sit

Are we asking enough questions?

Anton Ng

“Mom, if God does not want Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, why did God put that tree in the Garden of Eden?”

That was the question my then five-year old daughter asked her mom during a nightly devotion before bed. It left me and my wife desperately groping for an answer to a seemingly basic question—a simple question that I have not even asked as an adult.

Even on the street, when lost as we drove around, my wife would chide me for not wanting to ask anyone for directions. Pre-Waze, asking for directions would have provided the biggest help, but I always hesitated to do it.
When I was a staff member, my manager would give me instructions on what to do, and even if they were not clear, I would hesitate to ask for clarification. I would sometimes end up taking a lot of time figuring out what to do.

Why is it difficult to ask questions? Can I blame my personality? Is it because of a sense of independence? Or shall it be an indictment against my pride? Whatever the cause might be, this is something that we need to seriously look into.

One of the reasons we ask questions is to obtain information that would aid us to do our task efficiently or to make wise decisions. We ask questions for our own benefit. Though that is important, there could be other benefits to asking questions—benefits that sometimes are not for the one who is asking, but for whom the question is addressed.

The other day, I attended a “Meet the Partners” session for a batch of our newly hired Certified Public Accountants. During such sessions, I normally encourage our new hires to ask questions. If they do not ask questions, they will not get anything from me and we will just waste each other’s time. There will typically be a lot of hesitation before the first question is asked. Soon after that, the questions just keep on coming.

One of the questions that made me pause for a moment during a session the other day was, “What was your greatest regret in life?” It made me pause, not because I did not have any regrets, but because it was one of those questions I always tried to avoid. Apart from making me think, it made me reflect on what that regret could possibly be. In the process, it allowed me to unpack the emotional baggage that I had hidden beneath the surface. The benefit of that question was far greater for me as the recipient than to the one who asked.

Let this be my encouragement for you. Ask.

Ask and shake things up. Do we ask enough questions to challenge the status quo? Do we challenge the status quo to improve how we do things, even if nothing is really broken?

Ask questions for our own development. Do we ask enough questions to ourselves as part of our personal growth? In the face of success or failure, do we ask enough questions? What did I feel at that moment? What are the things that I would do again or not do at all? How should I have reacted to that situation? What should my mindset be when faced with a similar situation?

Ask, and somebody might get his own answers to the questions he was afraid to ask. When somebody asks for our advice, do we jump to conclusions and prescribe something like a doctor would do, or do we take that opportunity to ask the right questions to help that person reach his own conclusions?

Ask questions and make people think about their own performance. Do we ask enough questions to our leaders and staff to make them more accountable for their responsibilities?

Ask questions and make our own personal convictions. Do we ask enough questions about our own existence? Why are we here in this world? What is our purpose in life? Am I living according to my purpose?

Apart from asking ourselves questions such as: Who can help me? Where do I want to go? What is my goal? Why not further ask yourself: Why do I want to achieve that goal? How should I behave to achieve my goal? What should I develop to attain my goal? Is there anything I need to change?

Sometimes, it is not enough to ask what to do, but also to ask ourselves how we should change to be able to achieve what we are supposed to do.

So, therefore, ask. Ask and you will get an answer. Even the absence of an answer is an answer in itself.

Anton Ng is a partner, Audit & Assurance of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading audit, tax, advisory and outsourcing firms in the Philippines, with 21 partners and more than 850 staff members. We’d like to hear from you! Tweet us: @PAGrantThornton, like us on Facebook: P&A Grant Thornton, and email your comments to or For more information, visit our website:


As published in The Manila Times, dated 06 December 2017