Summary: Questions are the key to meaningful conversations, and meaningful conversations should be a key goal of every Christ follower.
“Let’s start this chapter by putting you in a tough spot. I want you to imagine yourself in the following situations…” (Location: 682)
Note:If you don’t already have the book, buy it. The situations which follow are very common. I would guess every single one of us would have been in something similar.
“In each of these cases you have an opportunity, but there are obstacles. First, you must speak up quickly because the opportunity will not last long. You have only about ten seconds before the door closes. Second, you’re conflicted. You want to say something, but you’re also concerned about being sensitive, keeping the peace, preserving friendships, and not looking extreme.” (Location: 701)
Note:These are very real battles within each one of us. I would also add, “guilt.” I often feel guilty if I don’t say something.
“I want you to notice several things about these responses. First, each is a question. My initial response in a situation like this is not to preach about my view or even disagree with theirs. Rather, I want to draw them out, to invite them to talk more about what they think. This takes a lot of pressure off me because when I ask a question, the ball is back in their court. It also protects me from jumping to conclusions and unwittingly distorting their meaning…” (Location: 733)
Note:There are many reasons why we don’t ask questions. It could be because we are angry and our first response is not a calm question, but a response. We have been taught to attack false ideas, so we respond in attack. It might seem easier to just build a wall and hurl arguments over it. Maybe those tendencies help to explain how we have gotten to this place in our society.
“Second, each of these questions is an invitation to thoughtful dialogue. Each is an encouragement to participate in conversation in a reflective way.” (Location: 740)
Note:If I am truthful, I would have to say that I am more interested in “winning an argument” than in conversing with an individual. Part of the reason is I want my beliefs to be right, and if I win the argument I have another assurance that they are. But that idea reveals that I am not all that confident in my faith, which is to say, in my God.
Third, these are not idle queries. I have a particular purpose for each question. With some, I’m simply gathering information (“Do you vote?”). Others, you might have noticed, are subtly leading; the questions are meant to make a point by indicating a problem with the other person’s thinking.” (Location: 743)
Note:The point isn’t to simply ask questions. The point is to ask good questions.
“The key to the Columbo tactic is to go on the offensive in an inoffensive way with carefully selected questions that advance the conversation. Never make a statement, at least at first, when a question will do the job.” (Location: 774)
Note:This first tactic, the Colombo tactic, is what enables us to step out from our normal fighting stance and actually make some headway in the conversation.
“Your sincere questions, though, provide a number of benefits and will move you forward without risking a direct confrontation. For one thing, sincere questions are friendly and flattering. They invite genial interaction by focusing on something the other person cares a lot about: herself and her ideas…Second, you’ll get an education. You’ll leave a conversation knowing more than when you arrived…Third, questions allow you to make progress on a point without being pushy…Questions buy you valuable time when you’re not quite sure what to do next…Finally, and most important, carefully placed questions put you in the driver’s seat of the conversation. ‘Being an asker allows you control of situations that statement-makers rarely achieve,’ Hewitt notes. ‘An alert questioner can judge when someone grows uneasy. But don’t stop. Just change directions. . . . Once you learn how to guide a conversation, you have also learned how to control it.’ (Location: 809)