What’s the best question you’ve ever been asked? 

Questions are perhaps the human mind’s most powerful tool. Questions let us grow, both individually and as members of society. Questions help us deepen our understanding of why other people believe, say and do the things they do. 

Questions can also tap into our collective creativity, helping us solve problems by tackling the underlying issues. A question can even change the course of the world. But not just any question.

In her new book, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, Krista Tippett shares how she uses questions to connect people in ways that draw forth amazing insights:

“Questions elicit answers in their likeness. Answers mirror the questions they rise, or fall, to meet. So while a simple question can be precisely what’s needed to drive to the heart of the matter, it’s hard to meet a simplistic question with anything but a simplistic answer. It’s hard to transcend a combative question. But it’s hard to resist a generous question. We all have it in us to formulate questions that invite honesty, dignity, and revelation. There is something redemptive and life-giving about asking better questions.”

One key practice in Circles of Trust is this Touchstone: Learn to respond to others with honest, open questions. Do not respond with counsel or corrections. Using honest, open questions helps us “hear each other into deeper speech.”

question-mark-listeningIt takes practice to ask an open, honest question. Look for a question without an agenda, without a right/wrong answer, and where you couldn’t possibly predict the answer.

It also takes a willingness to listen with a different ear. Ask an honest, open question and truly wait for the answer. Let silence fill the space while you wait. Resist the urge to come up with a witty response or a corrective comeback. Give your genuine presence.

Below is a poem from William Stafford that you can use to ask yourself some honest, open questions. You might try this at the end of a staff retreat, or when reflecting on a finally reached milestone, or for your own journaling practice.

You might be surprised at how a better kind of question can open up a better kind of wisdom.

You Reading This, Be Ready
by William Stafford

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life –

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

With gratitude and best wishes,
Terry Chadsey
Executive Director

P.S. Circles of Trust are an opportunity to explore questions about your life and leadership guided by touchstones like “honest, open questions.” See upcoming Courage & Renewal programs on our calendar.

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