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Asking Questions: What we didn’t learn in kindergarten

I had thought that old adage, “everything we need to learn, we learned in kindergarten” was true. Remember “show and tell,” when children are invited to share a favorite object and talk about why it is meaningful to them? Now I’m not so sure. To improve communication and spark dialogue, we need to take a journalistic approach and ask more thoughtful, probing questions.

Sharing

When my now teenage boys were in pre-school, they were pretty good at sharing.  Much better, in fact, than they are now! When it was my son Ted’s turn to share, he brought in a shark-tooth necklace that he’d gotten at the Miami Seaquarium. He was so proud of it! At the end of the day, I asked how it went. He told me that all the kids wanted to see and touch the shark tooth. “Did anyone ask any questions about it?” I asked.  Nope.

Asking questions

Certainly, one aspect of Show and Tell is developing a comfort with presenting in front of peers. The other half of Show & Tell, however, is learning to listen and ask questions. This part was difficult back in pre-school . . . and still is!  Apparently we DIDN’T learn everything we needed to know in kindergarten.

Gossiping vs. Asking Questions

I’ve often wondered if people spend so much time gossiping because it’s easier than asking each other questions.  In her Psychology Today article about “Why we Love to Gossip,” Peggy Drexler writes, “Anthropologists believe that throughout human history, gossip has been a way for us to bond with others.” If we want to connect with other people, it may be easier to share information we know than ask about something we don’t know.

We shouldn’t be surprised that pick-up lines such as, “Do you come here often?” have become a joke.  We laugh at how cheesy or lame they are. The problem is that any good conversation starter begins with an open-ended question, and we’ve never honed our skill of asking good questions!

Maybe the only ones who really master this trade are journalists and media professionals. And, one of the first principles they learn is that they must prepare.

Prompting Discussion in Meetings

To improve the level of discourse and sharing in meetings, managers, team-leaders, trainers and facilitators, must approach the effort with journalistic care, and prepare specific questions that will yield open-ended discussion or promote brainstormed solutions.

Your team may have their own challenges to discuss, but if you’re looking for questions about Team Dynamics, Stress Management, Diversity, Ethics, Happiness, or Leadership, Silver Series Thumballs can get you started. Each themed conversation-starter ball is imprinted with 32 discussion prompts that ask meaningful, open-ended questions.

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