Questions are wonderful tools. I often use them to see if my students are getting a concept or to get them to think about something in a different way. However, my favorite use of a question is to open the door into another person’s life. Questions have a way of breaking that awkward silence. They allow us to make real connections to others and sometimes turn strangers into friends.
I recently met a park ranger from New Zealand who was on the set of The Lord of the Rings movies from day one. I love the books and movies, so it was great fun talking to him about the experience. I was full of questions. He happily provided answers. But I received more than information through our exchange. A bridge was built between us. We connected. And it all began with a question. What wonderful stories have we missed because we failed to ask a few questions?
In interpretation, questions are paramount. They help us to know people so we can relate to them and discover their interests. My wife, Lisa, is a master of asking questions. She can know more about someone in ten minutes of conversation than I will have found out in six months of knowing them. In fact, she was the one who taught me the phrase “The Art of the Question.” She highly values people, so even though it’s not a job requirement, she makes connections with people wherever she goes.
Lisa and I recently had an experience that reinforced the need to ask questions. We were visiting with a federal employee from California. Lisa and I had never met her so we both asked lots of questions. After about ten minutes of conversation, we learned a lot about California, Yosemite, and the drought they’ve recently experienced. We learned about her job history, her interests, and her professional accomplishments. We were happy to get to know her. But the sad thing? When we parted ways, that person knew absolutely nothing about us. Nothing. True connections can only be made through a profound interest in others. And expressing interest in others almost always begins with the art of the question.