Over the years, I have observed that I tend to make statements rather than ask questions. This mode of operation is not something I intentionally set out to do; it just seems to be the way I have learned to communicate in life. I do not particularly like the idea that I am a “teller” (someone who tells others what he wants them to know). I would prefer to be an “asker” (someone who asks questions to be better informed before giving a response). But the hard truth is at least I recognize that I have gotten used to being a “teller.” So, if I honestly believe there is a better way to do life, how can I make the change?
There is a big difference in those two approaches when dealing with other people. I believe the difference in those two dynamics occurs as a result of whether you go through life telling everyone everything you want them to know or taking the time to ask questions so you can seek to better informed.
A few years ago, my oldest daughter, Rachael, and I were riding in the car together and we were discussing this issue. I asked her if she knew anything I could do to help this situation. She asked me if I had ever played the “Question Game.” I told her I did not believe that I had even heard of the “Question Game.” She went on to explain the rules of the game she had invented! The game is played by two people. The object of the game is for the first player to ask a question to which the second player’s response MUST be in the form of a question. Every question must be answered with a question until someone makes the mistake of answering with a statement. At that point, the game is lost by the player who failed to respond with a question. I thought the game sounded simple enough, so we began to play. I quickly realized that it was not as simple as it sounded. It required a huge paradigm shift in my mind to move from making statements to asking questions. It seemed that every time she asked me a question, I felt compelled to answer it. I had to concentrate and actually listen to the question she asked me before responding and asking her a question in return. I lost every time we played!
One aspect of the game is crucial. The response given must be directly related to the question asked. It cannot be just any unrelated question. Anyone can simply learn to “Polly-parrot” questions, but that is not the purpose of the game. If I asked you, “Where is your favorite vacation spot?”, you could not answer, “Do you think it will rain tomorrow?” A more appropriate answer might be, “Have you ever been to Cancun?” Rachael explained that the purpose is to raise a person’s listening ability as well as his or her concentration level. So, the question you respond with must be directly related to the question that was asked.
I soon discovered it is possible to answer a question too quickly without having heard what is really being asked. It would be better to take the time to think about what the other person asked and then ask a question in return in order to gain clarity before answering. I have found that process to be amazingly effective. It immediately increases one’s listening ability. When you start playing this game you are going to quickly see what I mean!
I am reminded of a funny story that illustrates my point. Little Billy came home one day and asked his mom, “Where did I come from?” Billy’s mother very nervously replied, “Well…uh, your father and I got married and we decided we wanted to have some children and one night we were talking about it and, and …why don’t you just wait until your father comes home and ask him?” Little Billy said, “Why can’t you tell me? What’s the big deal?” She said, “Well, I just think that’s something your father needs to tell you. Besides, why are you asking me this now?” Little Billy replied, “I was outside playing with Johnny, and he said he came from Mississippi. I just wanted to know where I came from!”
Learning to ask questions will not only cause you to slow down and listen better, it will also give you time to think about how to respond more accurately and appropriately to the question being asked. It may give you more insight into what the other person is really asking than you first realized.
I sometimes still fall back into my old pattern of “telling” rather than “asking”, but it has gotten a lot better. I see an improvement in my listening ability as well as my concentration level. I believe all of this is a direct result of playing the “Question Game.” Thanks Rachael! Once again you have greatly influenced my life!
Life is exciting! Learn to ask questions and then learn to listen. Watch the great results that take place in your own personal life. Do you know what I mean?
Tip: Learn to ask questions rather than just making statements.
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm