The Art of Questions
Whether we are mentoring, coaching, or facilitating a small group discussion, we use questions to draw the BEST out of people. Questions come in many shapes and sizes, each designed for a particular outcome and used with a specific agenda.
There are some people who seem to ask just the right questions. If you haven’t yet met that kind of person, then perhaps you can become that person. In truth, this effect is a combination of listening skills and an toolbox of strategic questions. We’ll get to the listening skills in a later post, but for now, here are three three types of strategic questions that we can use in both individual and group settings to draw the best out of people.
Must-select questions are very powerful, particularly at the beginning of a conversation, or with a person who is being guarded, as it forces a person to both think and respond, while presenting itself under the guise of simplicity. An example might be:
- “On a scale of one to ten, how courageous do you think you are?”
Must-select questions like this are neither classically ‘open’ nor ‘closed’ (see below), but rather provide options within boundaries, priming the person for a follow-up question based on the information they have already given you. Read More…
Open Method vs. Closed Agenda
This morning I was reading the story of Rehoboam in 1 Kings 12:1–19 and was perplexed as to how the son of Solomon, the wisest man to ever live (up to that point), could be so stupid. But even while perplexing, perhaps it is not surprising at all, because we do this all the time.
Rehoboam was preparing to receive the kingship of Israel following his father’s death. As part of the transition, he consulted the people and listened to their petition. He asked for some time to think about his response, then consulted elders who had served with his father, and even in practice, widened his sphere of input by including the opinions of some young friends.
While on the surface his decision-making method appears solid, the outcome was one of destruction and foolishness. Rather than running with the wisdom of his elders, he decided on the path of least resistance to his agenda.
13 The king answered the people harshly. Rejecting the advice given him by the elders, 14 he followed the advice of the young men and said, “My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.”
There are so many factors that pour into decision-making, whether it be big or small, but a principle I cannot help but draw from the story of Rehoboam is that:
You can be open in method, yet closed by your own agenda.
It is a common temptation to regularly seek after advice that simply affirms your held position, whether that be through sermons, the voices of friends, or books – but who do I have around me that can bust open my agenda, even when it hurts?
A kingdom may not be at stake, but it may just save me a lot of pain.