On Saturday I attended a retreat on how to ask open and honest questions as part of my ongoing learning and growth as a member of the Worship Committee at USSB.
It sounds so easy! Open and honest seems like such a natural extension of being a good listener, no?
The goal of open and honest questions are to help the person you are listening to deepen their thinking and understanding of the situation they are sharing with you. They are questions in service of the speaker, a gift you can give to help someone better process their thoughts, think differently about a situation, or reach their own epiphany.
Why are they so difficult? Because we typically ask questions in service of ourselves, the listener. We ask inquiring questions to satisfy our curiosity. We ask diagnostic questions to try to identify the problem and solution ourselves. We ask leading questions to "encourage" the speaker to see our perspective on a situation, or apply our opinions as a possible solution. In short, open and honest questions are difficult because as we listen we are really preparing for what to say next, how to engage in the conversation in a meaningful way but in a way that ultimately serves ourselves.
Open and honest questions require you to listen deeply to what someone is saying, to hear the themes, and to identify questions in service to the person speaking. For example, after sharing a difficult situation about my children, one of my group members asked, "How would you define your role as a mom in this situation?" That question allowed me to think more deeply about what my responsibility is, and isn't, in relationship to the decisions my kiddo is making. It wasn't a question that gave an opinion or asked for more detail about the situation; it was a question that made me think.
Open and honest questions are the ones that make you pause when they are asked, a total body response as the question "lands" on you, and the best ones are questions that hit at the core of the answers you yourself need to be able to find. In that vein, one of the most interesting challenges of open and honest questions is that the questioner shouldn't necessarily expect an immediate response. When someone asks you the question you need to answer, it might actually take awhile. Even if the answer isn't immediate, the work is going on inside.
How can we incorporate more open and honest questions into training and learning? Isn't this the core of motivation and behavior change? How can we marry open and honest questions with training content to get to not just the what, but also the how and why of change?