“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” – Steven Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Too often, we use questions as weapons.
We use questions to dominate others, demonstrate our “superior” mastery, advance our own agenda.
What if we approached encounters with a desire to understand the other first?
Listening then becomes a pre-requisite for asking good, relationship-building, information-gathering questions.
Questioning then becomes a tool for working and creating together.
I have found that the best conversations (and best relationships) have started with my desire to learn about and from the other.
When I go into a conversation with an agenda, or with a pre-conceived notion, or in a rush, or trying to prove something, it doesn’t go nearly as well.
Programmers have code libraries. Coaches, Therapists, Ethnographic Researchers, and Business Analysts have question pools.
Sir John Whitmore provides one of my favorite coaching question pools in Coaching for Performance. He designed these questions to help managers improve employee performance.
Tony Stoltzfus also provides a solid introductory question pool in Coaching Questions.
These tools are helpful, but they work best as a way to seed conversation. Other questions surface if you are listening deeply and seeking to understand.