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Tuesday, September 9, 2014


For the last several years I've had as an item on my personal growth plan to improve my skills as a questioner.  

I am convinced that if I ask better questions, then I will become a better listener.  Moreover, if I become a better listener I stand a better chance to learn more, to understand more fully, and to assess more wisely.  

In the interest of that personal goal, let me share some of what I'm learning about asking better questions:

  • Using starter stems like "How would..." and "How can..." and "What might we..." and "Is there a way to..." are much better than "Should..." and "What is..." and "When will..."  In short, questions that open doors to broader dialogue from a wider range of possible participants enrich the dialogue.  Question stems that force folks to take a position or provide a concrete "solution" right off the bat tend to narrow the discourse and polarize responses.
  • Questions that invite/encourage first-person responses are best. Keeping conversations in the first person make them less likely to drift into pontifications in which speakers report on behalf of others (most of whom are not and never will be "in the room").
  • "Listen a hole in 'em."  In other words, pose questions that invite folks to deeper levels of reflection/thinking, THEN focus intently on their words, their facial expressions, their body language, their tone, their attention, etc., etc., etc.  In effect, listen with all our senses, seeking to understand the other as fully as possible.  It is not about debate, it's about learning what the other thinks, believes, wants, needs.
  • LET SILENCE PLAY ITS ROLE!  Learn to be okay with long moments without words, in which thoughts can be formulated and considered, in which articulations can be considered fully before new words fill the air (and our brains).
  • Convey openness and interest through the questions I ask and through my responses to the answers given.  This is both respectful and inclusive in nature.
I've still got quite a lot to learn about being a better questioner.  I figure it will remain on my personal growth plan for a while longer.

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