Jesus asked great questions. He didn’t mince words and was masterful at getting to the point. He listened well, created safety and space, and was absolutely the best at the “mic drop” question. He knew how to engage, was comfortable in silence, and somehow knew how to pose the questions that people really wanted to be asked.
- “Are you hungry?”
- “Are you thirsty?”
- “Do you want to get well?”
- “What can I do for you?”
Jesus’ words cut through the relational minutia and went straight to the heart because he asked the question beneath the question. We would do well to learn from his style.
One challenge that has surfaced globally is the cultural inability to engage in healthy civil discourse or question asking. Dynamic, two-way conversations have been replaced with one-sided debates, and subsequently left us with the inability to truly listen.
Conversely, we may be talking more than ever…
- Zoom fatigue and “white noise effect” are real conditions as a result of the significant increases in communication platforms and methods.
- The average YouTube length is 12 minutes, with 1 billion daily mobile video views.
- TikTok reached 700,000,000 active users in 5 years making it the 7th largest social media platform.
- In recent years, TV watching has dropped by 4% (18-49 yr olds) BUT jumped by 74% on online platforms.
- Snapchat has over 265 million users who prefer messages with filters, shortened stories, and disappearing content.
Bottom line: We tend to talk at, rather than talk to. And because we have lost our ability to listen, conversations feel like they have lost their power. They have become superficial, one-sided, and far from transformative. Verbal interactions are supposed to be refining, precious, disruptive, compelling, and thought-provoking. In a world where tensions feel heavier, there is a profound need to empathize, connect and resonate. This comes from an ability to ask good questions and truly hear others. Over the last several years we have slowly lost our ability to listen.
This year I conducted a personal case study. I identified a phrase/question that I wanted to be known for asking. I wanted to have the opportunity to ask it in every conversation I was in. Nothing too ornate or refined, but just simple enough to be compelling. Seven words in the form of a question.
My measurements were simple:
- How often do I ask this question?
- How often was it posed to me?
“TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT THIS?”
Every conversation I had, I committed to asking this question at least once. In any meeting that I attended, I made a mental note of how many times the 7 words were used. The question elevated the recipient and fostered humility from the questioner. What the question was stating was:
- “I want to know your thoughts.”
- “I want to learn from you.”
I was stunned by the response every time I posed the question, and I was on my heels every time I was asked. In honor of the 7 words, below are 7 things I learned from using this phrase.
- BE “OTHERS” FOCUSED: If it is true that our favorite word is our own name then it seems fair that our favorite sound is our own voice. Imagine the opportunity we are given to hear a different voice, perspective, view. There is something healthy about giving up significant “time of possession” in a conversation.
- CURIOSITY IS COMPELLING: The world has become myopic and resistant to input. It is also growing in scope, diversity and breadth. Those that will thrive in a changing world will be those who seek input to improve in their skills and grow in their awareness by being comfortable in silence, and committed to seeking to understand.
- THE VALUE OF BEING SPECIFIC: Jesus was the best at asking the right question at the right time and oftentimes, the question that others wanted to be asked. It takes thought, work, and discernment but WOW, asking good questions is a lost art form and the conversation moves quicker and deeper.
- THE MARKS OF A DISCIPLE: The question doesn’t just request advice, it actually gives the other person’s view ‘weight’ and welcomes input, teaching and instruction.
- PING-PONG vs PITCH & CATCH: Some conversations are barely an exchange of ideas, but more a swapping of views where the loudest and last view tends to win (ping-pong). This question forces a slower, lingering conversation where thoughts can settle (pitch and catch).
- MOVE THE NEEDLE: A question that is a request elicits a response. A jaw drop, awkward silence, a sigh, highlighting its uniqueness. To share thoughts, be heard, and acknowledged for our own wisdom is a rarity. Let’s be unique.
- YOU WILL LOOK DIFFERENT: Our posture is external and internal. When you ask this question, you are leaning in, sitting back, taking mental (or physical) notes, making eye contact and reacting in hundreds of non-verbal ways..
As a mission, asking this question and listening to the answer may be our superpower! Relational ministry cannot survive on soundbites and there is a great need for understanding in the world of kids. These 7 words could be a starting point to some great conversations.
- If you ask profound questions- you will get profound answers
- If you ask shallow questions, you will get shallow answers
- If you ask no questions at all, you get no answers at all!
TRY THIS CHALLENGE! Try this personal case study for yourself for one week. Ask the question in every conversation. Keep track of when you hear it asked of you too. Take notes. Then email me (KenBTank@gmail.com) and tell me what you learned? I’d love to know what YOU think.