Asking questions – a conversation for understanding – let’s not make assumptions

I am amazed by how much inefficiency we build into any relationship or system by our failure to ask questions.

How easy is it to make assumptions, jump to conclusions, or develop a perspective because we failed to inquire more deeply.

My curiosity always trumped my fear of being seen as stupid, so I have never associated asking a question as a reflection on my personal status, intelligence or lack of, or even a lack of manners. (“What is happening here? Do you guys have relationship issues that need to be sorted out?”) I am never backwards in coming forwards, but my inquiry is always conceived with an intent to support the best for all.

Simon Sinek has done some magnificent work on getting to the why. If people took the time to understand (see the wonderful exercise I created as part of the Dare to Care – Radical Truth with Compassion workshop, called a Conversation for Understanding) why people do what they do, we would save a world of pain, frustration, war, killing….

“Why are you sniffing glue?” I longed to ask three 16 year old girls on the train? “How did you get to this place where glue sniffing was the thing to do at 11 am on a Wednesday morning?” I really wanted to know how the system and their families had failed them that they could be doing this.

“Why are you pouring your heart and soul into this task? There is little financial return?”

“Why do you care so much about x?”

“I perceive you as someone who likes to be in charge. Tell me about that? What drives that need? And is it true or just my projection or perspective?”

There is an elegance to asking that needs to be developed. This comes with time, practice and a genuine desire to ask in a way that gets a magnificent opening.

For that is what questions, done well, will do. They will open the conversation, open the relationship, open the context for our engagement.

In a previous relationship I gave my partner at the time a long list of all the ways he could make me happy. Most of what was on the list was easy and cost nothing. Yet in two years, he did not do one thing on that list. Not one thing! After we had ended the relationship I asked him why? Why had he not done anything? His answer….he thought about doing the things on the list a lot. He thought about doing them! As if thinking and doing were the same thing.

Thinking about asking a question is not the same. Ask the question. Keep asking. Your life and relationships will open for the asking. Even more so if the asking comes from a genuine place of interest and care.

Photo credit: Jeremy Brooks via Compfight

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*