Most of us don’t ask enough questions of our loved ones. The reasons are many; for some, it’s awkward, you don’t want to stir up any issues, and it keeps us in the safe harbor of see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil. We’ve embraced the political statement, “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” Some people are apathetic and don’t care enough to ask questions. Others are selfish and never think to ask others questions, and they only talk about themselves. Some are fearful that they’ll be perceived as rude. Social media has also influenced our lack of questioning.
People can improve their emotional intelligence by asking questions. In the 1970s, research suggested that conversations had two goals: learning (information exchange) or liking.(impression management).
Harvard colleagues studied thousands of discussions either between online or in-person speed dating. Some were told to ask at least nine questions in 15 minutes, and others were told to ask no more than four in 15 minutes. They found that the individuals who asked many questions were more well-liked than those only asking four, and the speed daters that asked more questions were more likely to go on a second date. The number of questions wasn’t the only factor; the type, tone, sequence, and framing also matter. They found that people who interacted with someone who asked several questions felt respected, heard and connected. Asking a question tells the partner that you care enough to learn and want to understand. Essentially, we’re saying the person is important.
Questions create connections, and they open the door to emotional intimacy. They invite people in when asked with a spirit of curiosity and empathy.
Questions are so essential in creating connections that Jesus asked questions although He knew the answers. The New Testament records 307 questions posed by Jesus. He used them to create a personal encounter. Jesus’ questions communicated through body language, eye contact, speech and tone that He was “with and for” the person He was encountering. “Jesus looked at him and loved him” Mark 10:21; “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.” Luke 22:61: He used first names to communicate intimacy; “Martha” Luke 10: 38-42.
He asked questions with compassion and curiosity. He asked open-ended questions. He didn’t come in with all the answers, although He had them.
Most of us ask questions for information: Jesus asked questions to provoke transformations. We ask questions for answers. Jesus asks questions for awareness. Jesus asks questions to confront the listener with their own thought process, preconceptions, assumptions and beliefs. His questions offered an invitation for further reflection.
Jesus shared His vulnerability as fully human when He asked His loving Father the question: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) and displaying His divinity in saying, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
May we be more like Jesus. Our goal is not to communicate knowledge to the listener but to elicit new understanding in the listener. Information isn’t always the goal; it’s understanding and connection that can lead to a transformative relationship.
Questions for you to consider asking your loved ones:
- What is your most treasured childhood memory?
- If you were to die tonight with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone?
- Is there something you’ve dreamt of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
- When did you last sing to yourself?
- If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one quality or ability, what would it be?
- When did you last cry in front of another person?
- What is one thing you have done that makes you laugh when you think about it?
- Would you rather be happy or intelligent if you could only have one?
- What would be the title of your biography?
- If there was a theme song played every time you entered a room, what would it be?
- What word do you hope people use to describe you after you die?
- If you were to die today, and at Heaven’s gate, you were asked why you should be allowed into heaven, what would you say?
If you have any questions or comments, please email LisaMay@livethelife.org. Go to livethelifesoflo.org for a schedule of classes for 2021. Jessica Campbell, director of social media for Live the Life South Florida, contributed to this article. Read more articles by Lisa May at goodnewsfl.org/author/lisa-may/