Keep Your Questions Open

“He asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’” Mark 8:27

Who, along with what, when, where, why and how are the basic questions to answer when telling a story.  But they also set you up to respond with humility.

These aren’t the only ways to start questions. We often say things like, “Don’t you think..” or “Can’t you see…” or “Are you going to…”  The problem is, those aren’t really questions.  They’re just ways to make our point.

The challenge isn’t just to say something we can end with a question mark, it’s to think about what the question is accomplishing.  What does it do for the conversation?

Questions can be open or closed.  A closed question contains the expected answer already and only allows for a yes or no answer.

Don’t you think this topic is important?  That’s a closed question.  It’s clear I think it’s important, and all you can do is agree or disagree.  Closed questions stop the flow of conversations.

An open question makes the other person the expert, and can’t be answered yes or no.   Open questions show humility, because they show you really care what the other person thinks.

When have you been asked a question that really made you think?  That’s an open question.  You’re the expert, as no one else can answer it for you.  You can’t answer it with yes or no.  Open questions start conversations.

Open questions can get my kids talking,
and help steer the conversation when they do.

Open questions are a constructive way find out what my kids are thinking, or help connect the random bits of information they tell me.

Jesus asked many questions, including the one quoted above.  That question started a conversation, which ended with Peter confessing, “You are the Christ.” (Mark 8:29)

We don’t have the insight Jesus had, but we can work to ask better questions.  It takes practice, and tricks like starting with who, what, when, where, why and how can help.

The next time there’s an uncomfortable silence with your teen, or you’re lost in what they’re trying to tell you, think of these words, and an open question will follow.

It probably won’t end with your teen confessing Christ, but you may be surprised where it does go.