Asking Questions

Investing in Curiosity

Believing People are Worth Knowing

and

Taking Time to Understand


Summary:
Beyond knowing someone’s favorite food is a person. Get to know them. Ask questions.


The assumption behind asking questions is that you want to know something. Wanting to know something implies an interest in that thing. So then in our camp context let’s state that you should have an interest in your explorers. Curiosity and caring should be a motivation behind asking.

Being able to ask questions may significantly stem from your interests. If you are passionate about a particular hobby it is probably not difficult to dialog, interact, and discuss about it. Take that ability, but sacrifice your interest for the other person’s interest. Switch your passion from your experience to theirs. In your mind, go to the other person and ask for a tour of their world.

Avoid overloading a person in conversation: ask and wait. Only ask people to process one question at a time. If they are having difficulty answering, ask the same question (say so) but in different words. To clarify further (after waiting) restate in yet different vocabulary adding an example of what you are intending for an answer. The one question, in various forms, is just a stepping stone in your ongoing pursuit to understand them.

Asking questions to remove dissonance, confusion, and misunderstandings of motive brings fluidity to more accurate perceptions.

Resolving curiosity, reassuring interest, confirming information and meaning, brings people closer.

Agreement is luxury.

Misunderstanding is poison.

Unity in objective is strength.

Knowing someone is a journey.

The communication goal is not control. The communication goal is not to be able to know someone so well as to anticipate their thoughts or answers, as it is to share touch-points more frequently that indicate congruency between person and desire. Communicate to formulate consistency between actions and words. Anticipate, willingly accept surprise and look for deeper insight. Good communication clarifies more than frustrates. It offers more trust than intrigue.

Ask questions to rejoice with another, to weep with another.

Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep.
Romans 12:15 WEB

Enter in at the door. Ask questions. Making assumptions is jumping the wall.

“Most certainly, I tell you, one who doesn't enter by the door into the sheep fold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
John 10:1 WEB

In Global Servants Cross-cultural Humanitarian Heroes Vol 2 pg 105 Lois Dodds emphasizes that assumptions are the number one killer of relationships. We get ourselves into issues because of our natural inclination to make sense out of what we see, that is “… [attributing] significance and meaning to events and behaviors.” Assumptions account for around “90% of our personal and group troubles.”

Ask, seek, knock. Jesus’ vocabulary for us to use.

“Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened.
Matthew 7:7-8 WEB

If you tend to be task orientated, push yourself toward a softer feeling view. Ask task-less questions to possibly discover intention, motivation, or presuppositions. In this mode of discovery refrain from using the word “do” along with make, build, design… Instead, ask for story. Ask for context. Ask for clarification.

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but enjoy the company of the lowly. Do not be conceited.
Romans 12:16 Berean Study Bible

Be of the same mind one toward another. Don't set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Don't be wise in your own conceits.
Romans 12:16 WEB

God calls us to a higher level of communication than just asking open ended questions and repeating back what we hear. He asks us to actually hang with people outside our clic and like it. To do that, the burden is on us to grow to be mature communicators. Limit unfounded bias and judgements. Seek understanding. Enjoy the process.

Getting to know someone is like mapping a life. The map is as different from the real person as a piece of paper is from the real world. So avoid overestimating your conclusions and be determined not to underestimate the wild diversity of the individual God made by creating that person in his image. Even the explorer who is little on the outside is huge on the inside.

Ask, Listen, Ask Some More

One of the key components to finding out more about an explorer and learning how to lead them is asking good questions. After asking a question, discipline yourself to keep quiet and listen. If you are doing all the talking in a conversation you are probably missing the ques they are being given for you to stop. While you talk you may miss the opportunity to observe. Your observations will give you the information you need to know to further the process of asking questions.

Knowing about another person gives you inroads to find ways to relate to them, build a relationship with them, and lead them. To know them you can give them permission to do some talking and encourage them to keep talking. Engage and motivate with questions. Try to ask questions that get them to talk more than you do over the course of the conversation.

An objective of asking good questions is to help you get to know your explorers deeply. You can learn from answers given to questions about their favorite food. That will provide a common and comfortable conversation. But go deeper. Ask about their interests, dreams, and struggles. The explorers may or may not yield the information. It is a matter of trust. So question by question step into their lives. Go all the way to God. Ask questions about what they think of God. This is why you are living in community. Take advantage of the camp moments to ask questions that count.

You can ask, “Do you believe God exists?” and get a simple yes or no. When you ask “If you could ask God a question, what would be your question?” you get another kind of information. “How,” “What,” and “Describe” can be powerful question lead ins. They require longer, more thoughtful answers. Balance the style of question to the ability of the person and the objective of the inquire.

Yes and No

Yes/No, either/or this or that, type questions have the advantage of simultaneously affirming and eliminating a persons preferences, values, or circumstances. These limited response questions are often easier to answer. If asked in order of decreasing breadth they can, as in the game of 20 Questions, quickly narrow in on meaningful responses.

The question, “Do you like cats?” gives a broader perspective than “Do you like stray cats?” Asking. “Do you like pets?” is even broader and could be asked first.

If people haven’t thought extensively on a subject they are going to have less depth from which to give meaningful, complex reasons to their stance. Lots of young people major on the answer, “I don’t know.” in response to a why question. So probing with gentle kindness using limited response questions is helpful for both asker and answerer in the unraveling process of discovery.

Prove Their Answers

Whether limited response or open-ended questions, keep asking to test, validate, clarify responses you are hearing. Initially you may get answers that are skewed toward letting you hear what the speaker thinks you want to hear. It can be a form of politeness or one of shyness. Make it your responsibility to find answers that reflect the real person talking to you.

Even when information coming to you is sincere and accurate you can cloud the interpretation with your views. This is where you put easy-judgmentalism aside. Refrain from preemptory conclusions. Ask more questions. This effort is a compliment and demonstrates respect. It takes time. It is a process.

Answers will help you understand where your explorer is coming from, what he centers on, the significance of relationships, and maybe some of his worldview. The more you know about the child, the better you can help guide their potential. Probing questions also help the explorer think deeply for themselves. They help the explorer understand themselves better or see what they do not understand. For example, when you ask, “Why should someone believe in God?” if the explorer does not know an answer maybe he will be compelled to find one.

Your transparency and honesty matched with interest and care of details puts you on the road to relationship. It is a road that can lead to friendship, discipleship and even stretch to eternity. Good communication based on good questions is worth the effort.

The skills related to communication are important to your growth as a person and to your success as a leader. The skill of asking questions doesn’t start or end with camp. Ask questions everyday of your life. Ask questions of God (pray). Ask questions about each of your family members (attention). Ask new acquaintances questions (interest). Ask yourself questions (self-evaluation). Ask your explorers questions (discipleship).