I recently had an enlightening conversation with my amazing friend, Shannon. Shannon's thoughts, and our conversations, always take me away to a better place. We are both inwardly focused (to a sometimes unhealthy level) and deeply reflective. Put us together, and you get roaming discussions about the universe , emotions, and mystical concepts. In short, I love us together.
The setting for this particular conversation was a late-night road trip back from Six Flags Magic Mountain to Shannon's Carlsbad, California apartment. Amidst the many things we covered in our two hour long talk, was the importance of asking questions. It is a concept that never really struck a chord with me until that conversation, until that moment, but that I will now re frame my communication skills with moving forward.
The topic first came into our conversation when I kept apologizing for saying "sorry." Saying "sorry" excessively, for things that don't merit an apology, is one of my bad habits. I'll be telling a story to friends, and have a knee-jerk reaction to say "sorry" for talking at all. My negative Nancy inner voice tells me that these people think I am going on and on, that they don't want to hear my story, that they are miserable! This becomes annoying to both the listener of my story, as well as myself. I say "sorry" in a plethora of other inappropriate situations, (such as when people bump into me), but you get the drift. This habit stems from insecurities that I am working to understand and shift. We are all works in progress, blooming eternally.
Back to asking questions. Shannon suggested hat instead of saying "sorry" 'til the cows come home, I should simply ask my listener how they feel about what I am saying. I may say "sorry" because I feel that what I am saying is too personal, or too much information, or too long of a story. In these cases, instead of putting imaginary thoughts into my audiences head, why not ask them how they feel about the conversation? "Do you feel comfortable talking about this?" "What are your thoughts on what I am saying?" Shannon made me truly realize that I have been authoring the thoughts of those I have been talking to, without really taking an inventory of how they are feeling. I felt expansive just thinking about the possibilities of using questioning in the place of assuming. It is opening, rather than restrictive. I choose to open.
Once the question bug bit me, I started feeling very inspired to question. I questioned Shannon about things I had never asked before. Why she decided to become a Chiropractor, the birth of her young son, the relationship with her ex-husband. I learned so much from her! I had been going along for years, truly believing that I knew Shannon well, but was humbled to realize that I simply hadn't asked that much about her. I had always taken her at face value, and from the experiences we had together, but hadn't delved deeper with the use of questions. My awareness drifted to the larger scheme of my circle of friends, and how many of them have stories to tell that I simply haven't asked them share. I felt inspired to connect with people from a place of genuine interest for what they have to say. Everyone has a story, everyone has something to teach us.
I have spent a lot of time assuming things about people that aren't true. I have spent a lot of time imagining what people might be thinking (especially about me), without asking questions to get to the root of their true ideas. I have had endless conversations where, when faced with a person I wanted to inspire, I instead rattled off all of my individual thoughts as a means to uplift them. I now realize that communication is a two way street. I can't hope to inspire someone, to teach someone, without gaining an understanding of where they are coming from. If we want to inspire the world, why not ask it an epic question?