Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Why ask Questions?

Sitting around our family table as I grew up sometimes felt like a blend of the Spanish inquisition, giving a family medical history, applying for a mortgage, and running for homecoming queen ... with green bean casserole thrown in. It made a few boyfriends tremble in their boat shoes, but it wasn't all bad. What it taught me was this: There is a lot of value in learning to ask other people good questions.

People ask questions for all different reasons. Some just want info (you know those ... you're thinking of her right now). Some are just geeky fact collectors and see you as a new resource (they're cute in their own way). Some enjoy the power rush of feeling informed (careful with those). Some want to lure you with a question ... so they can share what an expert they are when you least expect it. And then there are others who ask because they really want to know you, because they genuinely care.

This is the part of the post where I give you permission (I can do that, because it's my blog ;)) to eavesdrop on other people in the next day or two ... not as a habit, just for a day or two. And as you "drop," don't judge, but LISTEN and learn. I find most people do NOT ask questions of others. They just talk about themselves: what they think, their experience, their opinion, their advice, their life, their plans, their future, etc and etc. Listen, and I think you'll be surprised at how few people ask good questions. Asking good questions is really a skill we develop and have to maintain, just like any other good habit or spiritual fruit.

Imagine a tennis game where one person just held the ball. What would happen? One person would give up. The "holder" would ultimately feel dissatisfied, too, and be labeled a ball hog (it would be fitting). The game would be spoiled. Same with a conversation. Same with a relationship. When one person uses a conversation just to talk about themselves, the relationship doesn't go anywhere.

Asking another person a question out of a loving motive is really Biblical:

Phil. 2:3-5

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus ...

Jesus was really good at asking meaningful questions to invite people to share who they were, to uncover the "interests of others." It's a great example for us to follow. It says, "I'm interested in knowing you, and I'll let you know me."

You may've read the book Don't Eat This, Eat That. Well, here's my list of Don't Ask This, Ask That to help us ask questions that "go somewhere," instead of ending in a dead end yes/no.

  • Don't just ask: How are you? .... Ask: How are you feeling today?
  • Don't just ask: How was your week? ... Ask: Was this week heavy or light for you?
  • Don't just ask: Did you see that movie? ... Ask: What are your impressions of that movie?
  • Don't just ask: Have you been busy? ... Ask: What's been filling your time lately?

And when it's just a beginning conversation, start with some basics:

  • What kind of an area did you grow up in?
  • What brought you here and to the job/church where you are?
  • How do you like to spend your holidays?
  • How did you come to know Jesus as your Savior? (Or: Tell me about your church background.)

A person who is interested in getting attention just keeps talking, soaking in the chance to be listened to. They may not even notice if you walk away, tip over in boredom, or knit a scarf while they ignore you. :) A person who is interested in knowing others asks meaningful questions that show they care and help them to develop a relationship. Jesus made it clear that unselfishly asking questions is so important, because it helps us to build bridges of relationships between ourselves and others as we know "their interests" and see life from each other's perspective. That's better than a mortgage or winning homecoming queen (just guessing there). ;) But you'll have to ask me about that ...

What do you wish someone would ask you?

3 COMMENTS ~ Click here to leave a COMMENT:

Anonymous said...

That was really good, Julie. I think I need to practice those principles on my family - sometimes I am too superficial and need to be more interested (happens in the busyness of daily life!). I wish someone would really ask me how I'm doing, REALLY. So often I think we all just expect someone to answer "fine" when that is probably not the real answer. Thanks again. JLC

Joanna said...

Julie, I know I told you this at church but I just love this post. I always struggle with asking the right questions to get people to talk or open up but these are great!

I have too many questions I wish people would ask me, but one that I really wish they would ask is "how's your walk with the Lord?" You can't fake that response or at least I can't fake. Makes me examine myself and my walk usually leading me back to my true Love GOD!

Barbie said...

Hello! I found you from She Sparkles. You have a beautiful blog and I am looking forward to following! Blessings!