Saturday, January 22, 2011

Truth Spaces (3) Questions are revealing

The questions we ask are very illuminating. I remember as a young pastor being sent on a television course at the Churches Television Centre in Bushey, England. Before arrival we had to prepare various presentations for camera and also summarize topics that we were willing to be interviewed about. After each presentation we all sat in a theater and watched ourselves with horror (who likes to see themselves on video?) and then suffered critiques. I shall never forget that after my interview, my interviewer (a professional of long-standing in the television business) seemed to be as nervous as me. Why did he seem so tense waiting to see ourselves? Then it dawned on me that his skills as a questioner were also being made public in front of other professionals and that he was being critiqued for the quality of his questions. Questions are highly revealing.

It is said that you can tell how wise people are more by questions they ask than the answers they give. Our questions disclose so much about us - our depth or shallowness, our interest or boredom, our willingness to engage or not. My interviewer needed to show intelligent engagement – that he had asked good questions in the best ways. Was the phrasing appropriate? Did easier questions prepare for the more difficult? Did he miss anything significant? And was active listening evidenced by pertinent follow-up questions? Failure to pick up on issues betray poor listening not only to the words heard but what lies behind the words. Yes, the questions we ask reveal much about us.

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