“Good questions” can clear a path through incivility

We are desperately in need of good questions to draw us out of our silos, to connect us as human beings during these divisive and acrimonious times.

Good questions can clear a path through half-truths, lies, justifications, insults, declarations, vilifications, clarifications, obfuscations, rationalizations, denials.

Good questions invite us to drop our personas, masks, even the half-truths we tell ourselves.

Good questions open up possibilities.

They have many answers.

They are even likely to have different answers at different times.

 

Here are the most relevant “good questions” I have heard in months.

English teacher Laurel Taylor recently challenged her 12th grade students to sit down and talk with someone with whom they disagreed on a foundational issue, such abortion, or who they supported in the presidential election. The students were to ask the following:

What is it like to be you?

What is your life like?

What is it like to be known and by who are you known?

The students learned something of what shaped the “other,” discovered common ground as well as differences that were not resolved. Built relationships.

They went on to each answer the same questions for themselves, and share with their class-mates. More surprises: discovering they were not as alone and exceptional as they believed as they encountered the many challenges of adolescence.

 

These questions inspire me in their simplicity, plainness, and directness. They say, “I really want to know who you are, what it’s like for you to make your way through daily life.”

When we ask “good” questions we make space for surprise, the unexpected, revelation, AHAs. Space for other questions to arise. For more information to come in. More insight. Also mystery, doubt, vulnerability, confusion.  Also awe, joy, pleasure.

As these students learned, when we are able to let in what shows up, what is actually present and real for us, our capacity for compassion grows, even compassion for ourselves.

 

Invitation to practice:

You may share the same reluctance and discomfort these students did, but risk asking someone these questions, then answer them for yourself.

And please share your own “good questions” with us here.

 


For the full story: In a time of divisiveness, lessons on listening at a Virginia school, by Debbie Truong,  Washington Post, February 26, 2018.

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