I recently heard a terrific quote:
"A good question is better than a good answer,
because a good answer means the end of the conversation."
I'll bet each of us knows someone who is so busy talking that they never pause to listen to what you have to say. It's so frustrating. And I find that I dread conversations with those people because I feel... superfluous. I've vowed to not be "that person," who is only interested in their own opinion, but to be a good listener instead.
Because listening makes people feel valued. Validated. Less lonely. These are good things, people. These are things I want the people around me to feel. Me talking and talking does not make this happen. I've got a long way to go, but I'm working on it.
I've vowed to ask good questions.
And I've found that two simple questions are transforming my conversations. They immediately put a sparkle into the other person's eye, and inspire thoughtful interaction.
Here they are:
1. "What do you think?"
How about, instead of blurting out your strong opinion about, say, the moral decay in our society, you ask what the other person thinks first? You might be surprised to learn a nuance or viewpoint that your monologue would have shut down, had you gone first.
The next time your child asks, "why is the sky blue?" try to turn it around.
"Why do YOU think it's blue?" You might be charmed by an answer that's way better than your technical explanation of the atmosphere, and be engaged in a memorable conversation you might have otherwise missed.
Save your opinion for after the other person has answered...and then cut it in half. Or maybe don't even give it. Sometimes your "right" opinion feels like you've "one upped" the other person, which is death to a relationship. Leave a conversation open ended, that you can come back to later to discuss.
2. "How do you feel about that?"
This is not the same question as #1, although they are similar. The first has to do with the mind: opinions, information, the exchange of ideas. This has to do with the heart.
Feelings are tender things. And they should be handled with the utmost care. Give time to listen and reflect on the priceless gift being given to you - a glimpse into a person's soul.
This is a question we don't really like to ask our husbands, because we don't always want to know the answer. We don't want to hear words like, "afraid, scared, hurt, anxious, doubting." But they are the very words he might need to say - without receiving judgment from you. And perhaps if you ask it, without judging the answer, you'll receive the same consideration in return.
Your children, your friends, your co-workers, everyone around you wants to be asked these two simple questions. In our own need to be seen and heard, we often plow right past people who have value, who need validation, who feel lonely. Simply being asked makes all the difference in the world.
And be sure to listen to the answers.
Today's Small Thing is to ask these two powerful questions.
They will transform your conversations and your relationships. I promise.
I'd LOVE to be a fly on the wall and hear what happens today. Will you please let us know??