Ask For The Story, Not For The Answers

Saturday, January 23, 2016


In my personal life I've done quite a bit of work with kids. More often than not, when I ask a child a question and they begin to answer, a well-intentioned adult will interrupt and give a succinct explanation, ending the conversation.

The adult's behavior is easy to understand: the child's answers are often long-winded, hopping from point to point, never really touching on what I initially asked — at least not at first.

I often have to tell the adult, "I was asking because I am interested in the story, not the answer."

When you ask a child a question and then give them space to talk, you'll learn much more. More importantly, it shows them that their opinions and perspectives are valued and that they have a right to voice them.

The same thing applies to conversations with adults.

In our impatience to tick a box on a checklist, in our desire to have everything nicely tied up in a bow, in our drive to find the most efficient solutions and increase our productivity, we settle for surface conversations and miss out on the joys and benefits deep listening brings.

There's a quote I love because it proves true over and over: "A good listener helps us overhear ourselves." Ask people questions and then give them space to talk.

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