This is a slightly edited version of a weekly “Chaplain’s Chat” that I did recently for the employees of Cape Coral Police Department where I serve as Lead Chaplain — Dennis
You don’t have to be a police officer or a communications call-taker to know that when stress goes up it also puts pressure on many of our relationships. Turbulent times stress our relationships. Couples tend to fight more, neighbors can be touchy, teens and parents battle when quarantined in the same home for days on end, and even grocery store brawls erupt over the last bundle of toilet paper. Loads of cortisol and adrenalin get dumped into our systems through constant negative news, fear of the future, potential loss of job or the demands of extra work brought on by the current pandemic. Even the word pandemic brings stress because it feels like it’s a combination of pandemonium and epidemic (it’s actually a combo of “pan” as in broad-based and epidemic).
However, these circumstances present us with extraordinary opportunities to deepen our most important connections, both professionally and personally. Let me encourage you to be intentional about strengthening your relationships during this time. And do know what one of the most powerful tools are for doing this? Asking great questions.
As simple as it may sound, asking great questions is one of the very best ways to strengthen your relationships. Think about it. We’ve all met that person who rarely stops talking about themselves. If you have no one in mind, I’m sorry to break the news to you but you might be “that person.” And you aren’t very self-aware. All joking aside, you aren’t usually drawn toward spending more time with the person who doesn’t ever let you get a word in edgewise. Or if every short story you tell leads them to tell a long story that is bigger and better than what you told; you soon start to avoid that relationship.
But if a person shows an interest in your life by asking you questions, you like hanging around them. That’s true at work. It’s true at home. It’s true with friends. We all like the opportunity to talk about ourselves, at least in moderation, right?
Jesus was the master of asking questions. Some of his greatest thought-provoking questions were, “Who do you say that I am?”; “Do you believe?”; “Do you want to get well?”; “Why are you so afraid?”; “Why do you doubt?”; “Do you love me?” and many, many more. He gives us a lot of help in the kind of questions to ask.
While not at all exhaustive, let me share three types of questions to use with intentionality in strengthening your relationships:
- Open-Ended Questions – They invite conversation, not a yes-or-no answer. An example would be, “Are you concerned about the Governor’s new Stay-at-Home order?” That’s a yes or no question. An open-ended question would be “How are you being impacted by the new Stay-at-Home order from the Governor?”
- Fresh and Surprising Questions – They make the other person stop and think before responding. Rather than the cliché question of “What keeps you up at night?” we could ask the more interesting question, “What gets you up in the morning?”
- Help Me Understand Questions – This preface can lead to great conversation. Asking, “Why did you speak to me that way?” can come across as condemning or accusing. A “Help me to understand…” approach can communicate a desire to learn how the other person thinks and what was going on in their mind that led to a particular comment or action. Humility with a desire to genuinely learn the other person’s perspective will bring great dividends to your relationships.
There’s much more to be said about asking powerful and effective questions, but this is a start. It takes effort to develop strong questions. But good questions always lead to closer connections to those we work with and do life with. Rewarding communication leads to reduced stress. Healthy conversations lead to growth in our relational bonds. Stronger relationships outfit all of us with greater resilience to withstand the challenges we are confronted with these days.
May God’s grace be more than enough each and every day for this journey ahead ~ Dennis
P.S. – I’d love to hear (in the Comment section below) how you are using questions to strengthen your relationships.