For our team, 11:00am means lunchtime! Whether watching the clock or taking the cue from the microwave’s hum, by 11:05 there are footsteps buzzing around the kitchen. Why do we all grab lunch around the same time you may ask? Part of that answer is simply because we are hungry. However, for our firm, we recognize that time as an opportunity to build connections with one another.
Within our kitchen space is a whiteboard that has four questions that are rotated frequently. Next to each question is a space marked by each team member’s name where they can write their answer. Every day a new answer or two appears – how exciting! As team members prep their lunches, they begin to discuss what is written on the board. Through these conversations we’ve uncovered intriguing similarities, uniqueness, dreams, ambitions, and history about one another.
With every new answer comes new awareness. When we write our answers on the board, we reveal a little bit more about who we are AND we learn about those around us. This exchange of inquiry and vulnerability builds the connections we have as a team. Although we are major advocates for an office whiteboard, there are countless moments and ways to ask questions to those around you.
Why Questions Are Important
If we reflect, much of what we know about anybody, or anything came from the questions we asked. It is through others’ answers that we gain insight about the people and world around us. Below are three significant reasons to ask more questions to the people in your life:
- Keeps you in learning mode instead of judgment mode. When we ask questions, we put ourselves in a position where we need and value somebody else’s perspective rather than sticking with our initial impression. By asking initial and follow-up questions, we allow curiosity to lead our thoughts. The greater your curiosity, the greater your discovery.
- Illuminates giftings and challenges. Sometimes we can get a decent grasp on people through their personality style and the professional and relational roles they take on. However, there is always more to be uncovered. By taking time to ask thoughtful questions, we can uncover the giftings and challenges of each individual. Through this awareness, we can engage in ways that lift up other’s giftings and compliment their challenges.
- Establishes trust and connectedness. By asking questions, we communicate that we are making the time to invest in the knowing of somebody else. This is extremely impactful, as many of us long to be known. When we give others the opportunity to share, a connection will often form. As questions are asked over time, it reveals a genuine, compounded interest in one’s life, ultimately creating trust.
Ways to Ask Meaningful Questions
Yes, magic happens when you ask questions! However, there is more to it than pulling any random question out of a hat. To optimize deep connections and insights, consider the following tips:
- Make your questions open-ended. When formulating questions, you will want to avoid inserting any assumptions. Therefore, make your questions open-ended so that the recipient can fully explain not only what happened but how they may feel. By leaving your questions open-ended you avoid the insertion of any judgement you may have, and you increase the likelihood of receiving unexpected answers that will strengthen your understanding.
- Actively listen. In order to glean the most out of an answer, pay attention to what is being spoken. By actively listening, we communicate an interest and respect for what the other person is sharing. Active listening is displayed through our verbal responses and body language via eye contact, head nods, and the way we sit or stand during a conversation.
- Dig deeper. After the recipient has answered your initial question, look for ways to respond or ask another question based on their answer. This shows that you were actively listening and desire to know more. The deeper you go, the more you know!
Always More to Learn!
As leaders, our knowledge, success, and relationships are certain to grow when questions are asked, and active listening is practiced. Some of the questions we’ve had on our kitchen whiteboard are easier to answer such as, “What is your favorite dish your mom makes?”, while others are deeper such as, “What is something you miss right now?”.
No matter the depth of a question, it will hold significance. This is because with every question comes an acknowledgment of somebody else. When you take time to notice somebody else and express an interest in them, you have taken a step towards connection. Knowing that there is great power in inquiry, why not tap into it?
Some of Our Favorite Questions
If you desire to ask more questions in your life, here is a list of questions we have asked at our firm that have strengthened our connections:
- What do you want to be known for?
- What is your favorite thing to eat off the grill?
- What is something you want to focus on this week?
- What is your favorite scent?
- If you could invent a holiday, what would it be?
- When do you feel most confident?
- What is your favorite thing to listen to in the car?
- In one year from today, what word do you hope describes your life?
- What is something you want to learn?
- If you could start a new business, what would it be?
- What is your favorite room to be in?
- What do you want to be part of your legacy?
- If you were pen pals with a famous person, who would it be?
- What is your go-to, easy dinner to make at home?
- If you could travel back to any era, which would you choose?
- What is the first thing you do when you get home?
- What is your love language?
- How can you love yourself better?
- What do you wish you were better at saying “no” to?
- What do you wish you said “yes” to more often?