“Ask great questions!” I found this useful advice for us at the children’s museum last week. In fact, I think we can master the skill asking great questions to create safe-spaces to connect, leverage our influence, and make a difference in the world my memorizing only seven questions.
The Pros and Cons of Mastering Question-Asking
In real life, question-asking is my superpower. My husband and friends drag me with them simply so I can ask questions and keep conversations rolling. In fact, one of my old jobs was to welcome newcomers at a church, and ask them about their life. Then I’d ask them to go to coffee with me (many said yes), getting to know them even better until they felt connected and loved.
Asking questions helped those new people feel connected and made our church feel like a safe space to them. I was able to lead them to their next step through good question-asking and this helped lives change; it made a difference in the world because it made a difference to them.
But there are negatives to mastering the skill of great question-asking, too.
For example, one con is that although I am a terrible liar, but I’m not so bad at deflecting with questions.
Or I can be as extroverted as they come, but I rarely open-up until people ask me questions without relenting. Heck, I spend time with people weekly who know almost nothing about me (because they haven’t asked me questions) and my heart feels a little bit broken sometimes because I’m supposed to live life with them, but I feel almost entirely unknown by them. I want them to create a safe space for me by asking me questions.
Then there are the BFF relationships that are one-sided, because to me, they are simply acquaintances (even if I am their maid of honor). Generally, it is just hard for me to be vulnerable and authentic unless people “prove” they care by asking deeper questions and really listen.
Questions might be my super-power, but they are also my Kryptonite. And, I don’t think I am alone in this. This is why it is essential for us who want to make a difference in the world to learn how to become great at asking questions.
Mastering the Skill of Asking Great Questions With Secret-Sauce
For those who want to get better at changing the world by “loving small” we first need to practice using open-ended questions. An open-ended question is essentially a question that cannot produce a yes, no, or maybe answer. These draw people out.
Also, if you know the person across from you is a “thinker,” or more logical, it is likely you’ll get better responses asking what they think instead of what they feel. Unsurprisingly, the reverse is true too. With a “feeler,” or more passionate person, always lead by asking about what they feel concerning a certain subject. Strangely, this simple change can make a world of difference in conversation and make you a better question-asker.
Seven Great Questions to Master
Speaking of great questions, a great question I’m often asked is, “Elisa, can you just make me a list of good questions to ask?” (Yes, that segue was was really bad.)
But you memorize these questions, I can guarantee, you’ll almost never run out of conversation. I encourage people to memorize these ones:
Great Question #1:
- “What do you spend your time doing?”
Great Question #2:
- “What’s your story?”
Great Question #3:
- “What do you like about ____?”
Great Question #4:
- “What are your thoughts about ____?”
Great Question #5:
- “What are you passionate about?”
Great Question #6:
- “What’s something you’ve been excited about recently?”
Great Question #7:
- “What are you struggling with or what’s been hard for you recently?”
Great Follow-up Questions:
And then, once their answer goes dry, always follow-up with, “Why is that?” or “Tell me more about that…,” which you can often keep running for a long time. Especially if you move into another “what do you think/feel about______?” concerning something else they mention.
Practicing these seven questions until you have them down-pat will help you create safe spaces. They help you become a better leader and as such, help you make a difference in the world.
Your Turn To Master Asking Great Questions
Tell me in the comments what your go-to great questions are to ask to for fostering conversation. I’ll be sharing them on Instagram in a follow-up post!
Tell me how how comfortable you are with keeping conversations rolling and why.
Answer this–“What would help you become a better conversationalist?”
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