The Art of Asking

The Art of Asking

This article is written by Rachel Lane, former Senior Leadership Coach for Innovista

"Fine, thank you."

"Work’s good."

"Nothing much."

So many of my conversations with friends are like that. Is it so hard to answer a ‘How are you?’, ‘How’s work?’, ‘What’s happening?’ with something more, well…informative? Are they being deliberately distant?

But hang on a moment! When I’m asked the same questions, I give pat, lifeless, and non-informative answers too. However when someone recently asked me, ‘What is the best bit about your job right now?’, well, it was hard to shut me up! My friend learned much more than simply what I was doing – she learned something of my internal life, and forged a deeper connection with me.

She also taught me a valuable lesson – to see things from another perspective. Is it possible it’s not so much that my friends are closed, as my questions that are not the best ones? I’m rethinking my entire approach.

I asked a friend, ‘How did your beliefs about God help you when your baby was so ill?’, and our morning coffee (‘Just a quick one’) became quite a long one of deepening understanding, respect and friendship. I ask my daughter, ‘What was your favourite thing about school today’, and she actually tells me (and then tells me about the challenge she had to work at).

We ask about a friend’s job highlights, or his parenting, or her greatest experience of you-name-it, and doors begin to open to meaningful conversation about life and God. Genuine conversation, where we both contribute.

Listening to problems has its place, of course, but sometimes I (dare I say, we?) need to tap into the existing pleasure about life and affirm it. And when we’re in appreciation mode, we’re spreading warmth and acceptance that make it easier to say, ‘I struggle with this…’, ‘I don’t understand this…’, 'Where is God when...?'.

I’m finding that the ‘positive’ questions often bring out what really matters in a way that neutral, or personally probing questions don’t. If we make it a habit to be askers of great questions, our friends, family and colleagues begin to mould the habit of thinking great answers and of asking great questions in return.

By building trust through question-asking and meaningful conversation, we get to the real heart of our friends and take a step in communicating the heart of God.

Rachel Lane is a former Senior Leadership Coach for Innovista

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