Writing Group Topic: Asking Questions

Thanks so much for the lovely birthday wishes last week. I had the greatest time, in Denmark, where people kept surprising me throughout the day – I never even suspected some of the things they did, and got surprised every time! It was such fun.

Today I’m not feeling so good… there’s definitely a cold coming on and I feel short of breath and generally unwell. Finding it hard to concentrate, too.

Well on to the reading – asking questions? Goodness, that is a tough thing. I very much relate to another person’s share, I used to always feel like I had to pretend I knew what was expected and try to fumble through, fearing to be “found out” as a fake any second. I have to admit I still do that when I’m insecure. When I feel affirmed and safe, I have no problem asking questions… it’s when I feel like I have something to lose.

I really like the question of “How can I be most useful to you right now?” I’ve been asking how I can help before, but this way of phrasing it is really helpful because it implies usefulness, not that I think the other person needs help (which can be received in the wrong way).

I had a good conversation with David, my boss, yesterday when we did the yearly appraisal (an exercise you have to go through for HR). To put it in context, David and I get along very well because we’re very similar. He told me again yesterday, as he has many times before, that I’m a lot like himself when he was my age. He never really told me why, so yesterday I asked, and he explained what he saw in me: a quick-thinking, practical, capable and intelligent person (thanks!) but he said that he’d had some lessons to learn that I could also profit from. Particularly in listening. And he is so right – not saying I don’t listen, but he explained I need to learn how to assess what’s behind the words someone is saying. This is in a business context, of course, but definitely it’s the same on a personal level. David said I shouldn’t just respond to what the other person is saying; I should try to see the bigger picture and the agenda behind it: there is always a reason for why someone says what they say. So rather than respond to the actual spoken words, try to look behind them and respond to the underlying issues.

David’s very good at that, I’ve often noticed that. He responds thoughtfully and addresses underlying things that the other person hadn’t even mentioned, but that he sees from the context or bigger picture. Me, on the other hand, I tend to take what people say and respond to that. It’s a skill to learn. Asking questions is definitely the way to go there, too…

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