“Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.” ~Margaret Wheatley
We looked around the room, eyeing each other nervously, the twenty of us strangers at a weekend training course. Some of us attempted to make awkward conversation with the people on either side of us. We carefully broached the usual questions regarding where we lived, what we do, and the always safe topic of weather.
Our group leader called us to attention, then invited us to stand up, wander around the room, and introduce ourselves to one another by asking this question:
“What is your dream for your life?”
Moving from one person to the next, I stammered through my response the first few times but grew increasingly confident as I marveled at how many of us had similar dreams.
As I traveled around the room, I began adding depth to my response. I discovered kindred spirits and a receptive audience. As we all grew more comfortable, the energy and feeling of connection in the room was palpable. With the ice effectively broken, our leader laughed as he struggled to quiet us and move on to the next activity.
Talking about our dreams is not something most of us routinely do, in spite of our inherent desire to know and be known. Although we may hunger for it, true connection is often difficult in our busy everyday lives. We hurry past one another with a cursory how-do-you-do and an obligatory fine-thank-you as we move on to the next item on our to-do lists.
How often do we begin a conversation with a deep question? And if we do, how well do we listen to the response?
One way we can have conversations that really matter is by asking powerful questions. Asking open-ended questions lets the people in our lives know we are truly interested in who they are, what they think, and how they are feeling. Closed-ended questions, questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no response, shut down conversation and limit insight. Open-ended questions invite connection and sharing.
Thoughtful questions like the following communicate our desire to truly listen:
- What did you like most about that experience?
- What are you hoping will happen?
- How did that make you feel?
If we are brave enough to ask better questions, we also must be willing to do the hard work of listening well to the answers. Good listening requires intentionality, patience, and practice. As a naturally loquacious person…
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