SHARE YOUR HIDDEN ANSWERS
In improv circles, the saying is actually DON'T ASK QUESTIONS but I've changed it to SHARE YOUR HIDDEN ANSWERS for this site.
When a player asks a question in an improv scene they are pushing off the work of creation to their partner. This has two results.
First, by asking a question like, "What do you want to do today?" you can startle your improv partner. Suddenly they feel they must have a great answer to a question that manages to be both restrictive and vague. It is considered an unhelpful act. A startled improviser feels pressure and can feel unsupported.
Second, while it appears you have contributed to your improv scene by speaking, what has your line actually added? No relationship, no location, no activity. Very little. At most, maybe your partner could guess it is morning time from this line, as the day seems to lie ahead of you. But even if your partner did, it would really be them establishing the time of the scene as they would need to do the work of further defining the time for you and the audience.
The truth is, players who ask questions often have an idea of what they would like the answer to be. The advice then is to SHARE YOUR HIDDEN ANSWERS. Rather than asking, "What do you want to do today?" an improviser should favor a line such as, "Let's take the dog on a walk this morning, Honey." Tons of information and suggestions have been made in that simple line. We know this must be some sort of romantic relationship (dating, married, etc) due to the use of the title Honey. We know it's morning, probably at the character's home, and we have a suggested activity. A line like this is considered friendly because it is far simpler to build a response off of such a line. An example might be, "Great idea, I need to get my steps in."
SHARING YOUR HIDDEN ANSWERS is no less valuable at work.
Consider the employee who comes to a manager and asks, "Hey Norm, how does the CRM work?" What an overwhelming question! Full disclosure, I once asked a manager (named Norm) a question like this. And I watched his eyes grow full with a type of terror as he considered how to answer me and how many hours providing that answer might take.
Better than a question is a statement like "Hey Norm, I want to target bankers who just got their first promotion. I think the CRM has that info embedded in it, but I'm having trouble parsing the info." This is such a friendlier approach because it starts as a contribution, not a request. I.e., it gives Norm a lot of info and it doesn't demand anything from him. Maybe he'll know right away how to find recently promoted bankers in the CRM (as the real Norm did), maybe he'll find someone else who does or maybe it will spark a new idea.
Importantly, since there is no question, it also allows Norm an escape route that saves face. For example, he does not have to say "I don't know how the CRM works." Instead, he can just say, "Interesting. That's a good idea, I'll look into it."
Good exercises to bring up SHARE YOUR HIDDEN ANSWERS:
Terry Withers, 11.10.20