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QUESTIONS & CONVERSATIONAL CONSTRAINTS

September 16th, 2022

 

It can be incredibly difficult to get someone to see things from your point of view. Often it feels as though no one is listening. But there’s a problem with this feeling: it’s based on a lack of evidence, an no evidence is not proof that something doesn’t exit. It’s just proof that the evidence currently isn’t visible. 

 

What’s often happening is that we are heard, but instead of confirming this, our listener is too busy trying to push their own perspective because they are in the same boat - they feel as though they have not been understood.

 

We keep heaping our own point of view on others. Everyone struggles with this.

 

The key and hack to good conversation is in the questions we ask, not the descriptions and arguments we give.

 

When stuck at an impasse in conversation today, I felt the urge to rephrase what I’d already said, but a thoughtful moment made me realize that I was just repeating myself. So I switched it up, and wondered: how could a I force a response about the direction I was thinking in? The question I ended up asking was:

 

Given what you understand about my situation and my goals, if you had to adhere to those parameters as if you also really wanted them, what would your advice be for moving forward?

 

This got the thoughtful pause in my conversation partner that I was looking for. And the initial response was telling.

 

Hmm. You’ve forced me to give up my perspective and my agenda and take on yours as a kind of creative constraint….

 

Exactly. Isn’t this in large part what most people are looking for in many conversations? Isn’t this the framing through which we often hope to be spoken to? Put on my shoes for a moment. Look through my eyes. Wear my dreams and shroud yourself with my problems. Do you see something here that I don’t? How would you navigate forward?

 

Raw description does little to steer the mind of others. Argument and description function like the walls of a structure. Questions are the thresholds, the doors and portals that welcome a listener to venture in and explore. And notice the difference in agency allotted our partner in conversation: our partner takes no part in building the argument we give, but a good question requires both people to properly function. The listener is not just granted agency in terms of supplying a response, the listener is challenged to do so.

 

As it turns out, the advice my partner in conversation ended up giving me was exactly what Was doing.

Previous to my pivot with the question it had seemed like we were in total disagreement, but as it turned out, we were on the same page.


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