Hello everyone and welcome to today’s episode where today we pick up from last week's episode, no. 63
If you didn't catch last week's show, the problem we discussed is that we may want to engage with someone, but we don’t know what questions to ask to get things started.
It’s easy to say “ask more questions” to cure our CD-20, curiosity deficiency, but many times we can’t think of questions to ask. It’s especially true in relating with the quiet introverts among us.
Because we can’t think of questions to ask, many of us will default to what’s easiest, namely talking about ourselves. We look at the other person through “me colored glasses.” When someone shares an experience or thought, we jump in and share a similar thought or experience from our life. We listen to others “autobiographically” as Stephen Covey describes it.
What I have discovered, however, is there are only two questions we ever need to remember if we’re serious about engaging someone in a substantive conversation. The vaccine we need to cure us of the dreaded Curiosity Deficiency virus is just two questions to ask.
Only two questions are needed to exercise our curiosity muscles to build new relationships, or strengthen old ones. Just two, that’s all.
In today’s episode, so as not to overload you, we’re going to consider just the first of the two questions. It will be easy to remember, but If you want to take notes, you’ll just need a single post-it note. We’re only going to consider one simple question. Pause this recording, if you need to, to go get a post-it note, Because you don’t want to miss this. Take a deep breath, maybe get a glass of water. Do some stretching exercises if you must.
Ready? Before I tell you what this one simple question is, I need to tell you how it came to be.
Background to question 1
Questions come naturally for me, because people interest me. During my career as a teacher, I worked in my spare time to get a master’s degree in counseling, and I learned a bit about asking questions. Good counselors ask few questions, I learned, and I do believe that to be the case. We’ll save that concept for another time. Because we’re not talking here about anything even close to counseling.
Then I left teaching and got into the business world as an executive recruiter where I really learned about questions. It was essentially a sales position. The best sales people, I soon learned, ask good questions. They listen more than they talk.
Later my wife and I helped start a missionary care ministry. We found that people who want to care for missionaries were sometimes at a loss for what questions to ask them. So I started compiling a list of dozens of questions I would typically ask.
Too complicated. No one’s going to remember the list. So I scrapped the list and came up with just two. Two questions that are impossible to forget. Here’s the first one, and the only one we’ll consider in this episode. The second one we will tackle in next week’s show. But here’s the first question. It is to ask our self a question, namely:
From what I know of the person in front of me so far, what might it be like to be them?
When we ask ourselves this question, questions about the other person will naturally arise within us organically. Even when we have very limited information about the other person. You really don’t have to know much to begin to ask your self this question. Here’s an example of how this works:
The Dutchman we met at Gull Lake, Michigan story
I think the Dutchman was an angel sent by God to pursue me to get me out of my funk/depression.
What do you do in order to ask yourself “what might it be like to be the other person” How exactly do you do this?
- Stop thinking about your self for the moment. It will free you up with the energy and relational calories you need to think about someone else. You’ll need that energy for holy imaging about the other person.
- Put ourselves in the other person’s shoes and walk around in them a bit
- Connect our present encounter with our past
- Draw upon our past experiences that might relate to the other person. Does the other person remind you of the qualities of someone else you know?
- Stress “might” in your speculation. You don’t have to be 100% correct. The other person will guide your thinking.
Here’s how we benefit when we ask our self what it might be like to be the other person
- It can ease us out of our depression and concerns about our problems
- What we learn about another person can enrich our life
- It expands our world
- It’s a way to find role models and mentors for our life
- If we knew more about each other we’d sin against each other less
- Knowing someone well makes it easier extend grace and forgiveness to them
If you forget everything else, here’s the one thing I hope you remember from today’s episode.
Considering what it might be like to be another person will naturally and organically evokes questions within us about that person. We can then ask these questions to begin a substantive conversation, which will deepen our relationship with that person.
Here’s what you can do in response to today’s show.
Ask God to help us open our eyes to other people, to help us exercise our curiosity muscles about them. To see people as God sees them, and to derive a measure of joy from others, as he does. To show grace to people. To forgive them, as he has forgiven us.
Take some time to understand someone’s history. To learn about the context in which people grew up. There’s the political, social, and cultural history we’re all part of. That affects us all. Think of how 9/11 has affected us. Younger people know nothing of going to the gate at the airport to welcome family or friends right off the plane.
Do what Kareem Abdul Jabbar advised us several weeks ago in the relationship quote of the week, “Go out and make friends with someone who doesn’t look like you.” Asking yourself, what might it be like to be them, will make it easier to do!
Then there is the personal history.
To do any of this is not our inclination. We need to ask God to empower us to think outside of ourselves, to think outside our box, our little box.
As always, another thing you could do is let me and your fellow listeners know what resonated with you about today’s episode. You can share your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of the show notes. Or you can send them to me in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope your thinking was stimulated by today’s show, to both reflect and to act. So that you will find the joy God intends for you through your relationships. Because after all, You Were Made for This.
Now for Our Relationship Quote of the Week
I long to hear the story of your life. ~William Shakespeare, from The Tempest, Act 5, scene1
That’s all for today. See you next week. Good-Bye for now.
In today’s episode you said, “Later my wife and I helped start a missionary care ministry.” I was not aware of that! Is it still functioning? Who is running it? do you have resources that you offer to the caregivers? a website? You might or might not be aware of Emmaus Road International: a resource for third millennial missions. our two books on missionary care have circled the earth. one, in 21 languages. i would like to know about the ministry you and your wife started. thanks.
Hi Neal, It’s an honor to have you interested in our missionary care ministry, Caring for Others. Our website is https://caringforothers.org. It needs a lot of work and it’s on my “to-do” list. We started our ministry with several other people in 2004, but it’s now just my wife and me. I’ve done pastoral care training on 5 continents, along with debriefing and counseling of missionaries in our home, and online. My wife Janet is actively involved in the in-person work we do. My focus is to equip global Christian workers to better care for each other. My podcast is proving to be an effective means of delivering content that helps missionaries and other people of faith. And I’m certainly familiar with your work. I’ve referred folks to your two books many times. Thank you for your interest in what we do!