I want you to try something with me this week: what if, in a conversation or two — with our kids, with our colleagues, with our spouses, with our students, with crazy Uncle Harry who you only see at Thanksgiving — we tried asking four questions in a row. “In a row” isn't the best way to put what I mean: picture each question as a shovel scoop; I'm talking about digging four times down into the same hole.
I'm sitting here trying to list examples and struggling.
- Question 1: Hey Johnny, how was your weekend?
- Question 2: You really enjoy that game, don't you?
- Question 3: Um…?
What I predict is that, as I try to have a “Four Questions Deep” conversation this week, I'm going to flail around a bit.
Why try to go Four Questions Deep?
I think that asking great questions of someone helps us understand them. When I ask the right questions of my students or my own children or my colleague across the hall, I learn who they are. And, more often than not, when I ask the right question, they feel more understood by me. Great questions enhance both sides of a relationship.
Practicing the art of question-asking also has a humbling effect on us. (Think of humility in the C.S. Lewis sense: “thinking of yourself less and thinking of others more.”) Humility, as I've written before, makes us better and saner teachers.
And finally, I suspect that, if we do happen to have a conversation this week that truly goes four questions deep, that will probably end up being the most interesting conversation we have. Interesting conversations cultivate character strengths like curiosity and gratitude, and they probably just make us smarter, too.
Take a crack at it with me this week; let me know how it goes in the comments.