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.
Originally published January 2015