In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines. Proverbs 18:17
It is impossible to get the right answer without asking the right question. Some questions unlock understanding while others stop conversations before they even start. Very little information arises from questions that have a yes or a no answer. They provide no insight into motives, thinking, feelings or emotions. One is left to rely on assumptions to fill in the blanks.
Instead of using our assumptions to comprehend the “WHY,” it makes more sense to ask questions that explain the WHY in the first place. Open-ended questions help reveal what the other person is thinking, wanting and even doing about the situation being discussed.
Every question unlocks a different puzzle piece that is necessary if we are to get a clear picture of the person we are supporting. When these questions are built upon one another, we start to gain a better understanding of the situation, the motives of the heart and the behavior of the individual. The point of this is not to analyze people but to get to know them better.
A majority of what a person is dealing with isn’t coming out of their mouth. We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface is a massive block of unknown. There is more going on than what we hear and see.
Understanding what a person thinks about the situation is another good area to investigate. People don’t respond to facts, though we use them all the time in our conversations. We react to our interpretation of the events. Knowing how someone interprets a situation is vital – sometimes it’s not a person’s actions that need to change, it is their thoughts about it. Finally, it is important to uncover what the individual wants out of the situation. Our desires are regularly engaged in a battle for control within our heart. Are the desires pleasing to God or have the desires become demands that are more important than pleasing God?
One of the critical skills we must develop is the ability to ask questions that drive to the heart. People are desperate for others who are willing to devote time to ask the difficult questions and listen with a caring ear. We all have our blind spots that can lead us into trouble. Asking good questions is similar to providing a mirror to a person so they can see who they are.
When someone invites us into their world by sharing something going on in their life, we must keep in mind these four focus areas while we listen: (1) the circumstances themselves, (2) how he/she responds to the situation, (3) what they understand or think about what is going on, and (4) what they want out of the situation. Helping someone walk with God requires taking the time to get to know them. As we learn more about those that we are investing, we’re able to help encourage them in their walks with God and taking their next steps of faith.
- What conversations have you engaged in recently that you need to go back and dig deeper?
God, tune my ears to those that are in need. May I listen with compassion. Open my eyes to see how these individuals are interpreting their circumstances. And, when prompted, allow me to share with them the hope found in You. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.