Asking better questions is risky

This past Sunday, our men's group started going through the book Conversationally Speaking. It is amazing to me how poorly we communicate. Most people have decent social skills but we all have glaring weaknesses. For most Asian Americans, it's mostly due to poor modeling and training. If you grew up in the bay area, chances are one or more of your parents were engineers and school never taught them how to have a decent conversation. My conversational weaknesses range from the common (running out of things to say or ask) to the more unique due to my personality (aggressive, intimating, confrontational, and offensive).

That's why I'm so exciting about this book. I heard about it on a game blog that is not Christian in any way. And yet this book club this is where game and Christianity intersect. Christian men should, by default, have game because we have a purpose much larger than ourselves.

The first chapter is about asking open-ended questions. Too often, we fire closed questions like an assault rifle on full auto, hoping our target will succumb - "Where do you live? How far is it? What do you do? Do you like it? Do you not like it?" It's death by interrogation.

The solution, of course, is to ask better questions - open-ended questions. "What do you enjoy most about living in the bay area? You work for Apple, which I heard is very competitive, how do you negotiate the office politics?" And the more specific you are, the more effective the question is in promoting conversation.

What makes better questions risky though is that they are by nature difficult to answer in one or two words. They require thinking. Often we resort to closed questions because we're trying to make it easier on the other person by inviting them to say less rather than more. It's probably due to laziness on our part and our desire to avoid any awkward silence.

Lastly, better questions are risky is we might not like what we hear. This past weekend, I practiced asking open-ended questions with Caleb, my 11-year old son. I asked him about his current Wii obsession, Skylanders Giants, "So Caleb, what's the goal of the game? And how is it better than the other games you have?" He looked at me, somewhat exasperated and said "Why you don't you just play it, dad?"

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