THE QUESTION IS A key constituent of the DNA of interactional life. In our communication courses we use an exercise in which we ask four volunteers to come to the front of the class. We then instruct them to carry on a conversation about 'the events of the week'. The only rule is that no one is allowed to ask a question. Two things happen: first, the interaction is very stilted and difficult; second, someone very quickly asks a question. To continue with the above analogy, in the absence of questioning DNA, the communication organism often becomes unstable and eventually dies.
Questioning is perhaps one of the most widely used interactive skills, and one of the easiest to identify in general terms. As we shall see, however, and as stated by Hawkins and Power (1999:235): 'To ask a question is to apply one of the most powerful tools in communication/ Questions are at the heart of most interpersonal encounters. Information seeking is a 'basic human activity…that contributes to learning, problem solving, decision making, and the like' (Mokros and Aakhus, 2002:299). Indeed, Waterman et al. (2001:477) argued that 'Asking questions is a fundamental part of communication, and as such will be an important factor in the work of many professionals.' In most social encounters questions are asked and responses reinforced-this is the method whereby information is gathered and conversation encouraged.
Society is fascinated by questions and answers. Those involved in public question and answer sessions have become the gladiators of the electronic era. Let us take a few examples. Contestants in TV quiz shows can win fame and fortune just by knowing the answers to questions they