Guest Post by Mark P. Fisher

Questions are powerful tools.

Questions help carry conversations.

Questions can offer clarity and connectedness with those we lead.

Questions can also create fear and suspicion.

I remember during our first year of marriage some 28 years ago, Lori and I had a meal with one of her friends.

In my normal, curious fashion, I peppered the fiancée with questions.

Sadly, I did not pay close attention to the awkward signs of the young man becoming uncomfortable. A few days later Lori’s girlfriend told her how upset and offended her betrothed had become. Turns out this up-and-coming Texan tycoon thought I was trying to steal his business ideas.

What?!

It’s taken many years for my wife to train me in three important areas so as to not repeat this embarrassing story as often:

  1. Pay attention to context.
  2. Pay attention to body language.
  3. Pay attention to motive.

Context

I was in a foreign land. Texans often view Yankees with suspicion. Questions without context can feel like:

  • Bullets, ripping through an unsuspecting victim, or a
  • Spotlight, shining into the secret places of a suspect

Rather than creating personal connectedness, I caused fear and suspicion.

Body Language

According to Albert Mehrabian in Silent Messages 93% of communications is non-verbal. Therefore, when I’m asking questions, I try to be aware of both my posture and the one I am inquiring of, because ‘far more is communicated without words’.

Motive

Seems curiosity without care can feel like a personal invasion. Since people don’t care how much you know (or ask) until they know how much you care it’s critical to ask from a genuinely caring spirit.

Because I did not have a relationship with either of my wife’s friends – my questions felt threatening, rather leading him toward clarity or connecting us relationally.

I still ask questions, lots of questions.

The difference now? I try to quietly ask myself a few questions before I begin.

LIKE:

  • Does this question fit the context?
  • What is the body language saying?
  • What is my motive?
    • Personal gain? Show my superiority? Call out their foolishness? (Smile and keep quiet)
    • Encourage? Build up? Offer clarity? Create connection? (Dig in)

May your curiosity lead to greater clarity, connectedness, and leadership.

MarkPFisher - Headshot

Mark P. Fisher is an entrepreneur, mentor, strategist, storyteller and amateur travel writer. 

Professionally: Using questions and stories, Mark coaches leaders and grows organizations.

Personally:  Mark and his beautiful, redheaded Texas born wife Lori introduced their 5 children (3 of whom are now married) to the world of travel early in their 28-year marriage. With Rick Steves’ books in hand the Fishers have explored Italian architecture, food and coastlines, German culture and castles, Austrian mountains and Sound of Music lore. Together they have served the poor in Mexico, Jamaica and Costa Rica, vacationed in various Caribbean Islands like Aruba and Puerto Rico. Lori walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain and together they have lived bi-coastally from sunny southern California, eclectic Santa Fe NM to the quaint Maryland shores of the Chesapeake Bay.

 

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