It’s unfortunate that the art of conversation is being lost during this age of digital anonymity. Of this art, one brush stroke stands out to me above the rest as being more sorely missed. When talking to any one, it is astounding the power of a good question.
In my apologetics class, there is a day where the student can only ask questions, and never provide answers. For every statement they make, they loose a point. It is possible to fail this day. I can ask questions and answer, but my students can only ask questions.
It is a hard and difficult day for two reasons: 1) They cannot ask one word questions, i.e. What? Why? And?, and 2) they’re not entirely sure how to ask good questions.
I think this is a recurring problem in our society for several reasons.
- Asking questions comes across as being ignorant on a subject, and in this informational age, if you don’t know something, you are seen as out of touch, and worse, uninformed.
- Questions provide a person the opportunity to be humble, an admittance that one does not know a thing. This humility is countercultural for us, though not as Christians, and is seen as weakness.
- Being teachable and having a desire to learn is uncommon. More often then not, more people want to know what is right and what to do that is right. Asking “Why” is not as acceptable as it once was (was it, though?) because it is seen as questioning authority or being judgmental.
- Asking questions reveals what you consider to be important. You ask what you want to know about, what you care about, what matters to you. Asking a question is revealing. It’s a little scary. The phrase, “there’s no such thing as a bad question,” is a lie. Yes there are. There are plenty of bad questions. But sometimes, we only know how to ask bad questions because we’re not thinking of how to ask good ones.
There are other reasons, but I think this is sufficient.
What would constitute as a good question then?
“How was your day” is a great opener. However, after the person responds with “good,” “fine,” “ok,” this is where you have an opportunity for a good question: “what made your day good/fine/ok?” Now, you are asking for a reason to an answer, you are taking the first plunge into the dark waters of conversation – an act that is so foreign to some that they may very well sigh and think for a moment, a moment of honest reflection! And as you listen, you may very well have an opportunity to respond, to provide them with a chance to ask you a question.
This is the art of conversation: a dance of words where you must pay attention to what is said and not said, of tone, body language, emotion, fluctuation, and other things that ultimately boils down to one idea: love your neighbor as yourself.
Do you listen to ask good questions? If not, you’re not fully loving your neighbor.
Good questions reveal who you love. Jesus asked good questions – and his love is the greatest the word has ever known. Let us reflect that same compassion by paying attention to those around us and asking questions that reveal our love for God and our neighbor.
Who knows? A persons conversion could all be attributed to you asking “How are you today?”