Why Don’t You Ask? And Why You Probably Should

“We’re all hungry for better answers. But first, we need to learn how to ask the right questions.”– Warren Berger

If We Ask

Until this morning, Mrs. B and I had been strangers. Now we were walking the food line together, choosing which items would be useful to her family.

We get to spend ten or fifteen minutes with each person at House of the Harvest on Saturday mornings to gather groceries.

But in those important minutes, we can find out a lot about each other.

If we ask.

I was asking Mrs. B questions about her kids, her grandkids, and she would answer.

But she also did something else. She would turn the questions back around, and ask me.

“And how many kids do you have? And did you grow up here, too?”

Back and forth. It felt delightful, this two-way conversation.

It was like a spontaneous version of “The Question Game” in the movie, It’s Kind of a Funny Story.

In the movie, teenagers Craig and Noelle play a game of ending every comment with a question. There’s no obligation to answer, but the next person still has to ask another next question.

It's-Kind-of-a-Funny-Story_The-Question-Game

Why don’t we ask more questions, too?

Whether we’re meeting someone for the first time, or having a conversation with someone we already know, what prevents us from continuing conversations with questions?

“Einstein was deliberate in choosing which questions to tackle: In one of his more well-traveled quotes—which he may or may not have actually said—he reckoned that if he had an hour to solve a problem and his life depended on it, he’d spend the first fifty-five minutes making sure he was answering the right question.”
– Warren Berger

4 Reasons We Don’t Ask, But Should

1. We Don’t Know

  • Why We Don’t Ask – Because we’re scared of looking stupid.

Typically when I meet a new person in the food line, I say, “Hey, I’m Lisa. And you are?

But if I think I should already know their name and their story, I freeze up. I want to skip the introductions and move on to more general topics. I don’t want them to think, “You said this same stuff to me last week! Why don’t you remember?

  • Why We Should Ask Anyway – Because we don’t know the answer.

Even if asking reveals our ignorance? Yes.

We’re not here to protect our reputations; we’re here to enhance our relationships.

I once introduced myself to the same new lady at church three weeks in a row. On the fourth week (yes, 4 times!) it was brought to my attention. I was highly embarrassed. (Lesson: Pay closer attention.)

But better to be embarrassed and friendly than preserve our reputation and appear snobby. (That’s what I tell myself anyway.) Let go of what others think of us and think of them instead.

2. We Don’t Want to Know

  • Why We Don’t Ask – Because we really don’t want to know.

Ouch. Honestly, sometimes we just don’t care. We’re tired. We don’t have the energy to get to know somebody better. Or we lack the motivation or understanding that it matters.

  • Why We Should Ask Anyway – Because God makes each person unique.

Each person has something special about them. Each person has something to teach us or to make us laugh or to help us think.

Each person can show us a new side of God that we have never seen.

3. We Think We Already Know

  • Why We Don’t Ask – Because we think we already know the answers.

Why should I ask you about your beach trip if I’ve already heard from somebody else that is was fantastic? I know the answer.

  • Why We Should Ask Anyway – Because asking is showing love. And we don’t know everything anyway.

Conversing with each other is more than exchanging facts. It’s showing interest and building history and getting closer.

There is more to learn about a person than what we think we know. Dig deeper.

There’s always another surprise.

4. We Don’t Want to Offend

  • Why We Don’t Ask – Because we don’t want to offend or seem nosy.

At House of the Harvest, once we load the groceries in their car, we’re encouraged to pray with our new (or old) friend. But what if they’re not a Christian? Or what if they don’t believe in prayer? Or what if they think that’s too personal?

  • Why We Should Ask Anyway – Because asking to pray for someone may be the best gift we offer.

“Before you leave, can I pray a blessing over you?” Rarely does anyone answer no. (Granted, I live in the south.)

But most people we meet are grateful for the concern, even if they’re not the praying type themselves. This is the time we often hear the things closest to their heart. This is the time we are drawn closer as friends and neighbors and family.

This is the time God pours his blessings on all of us.

Benefits of Asking

When we ask, we get more than answers.

  • We gain insights.
  • We improve relationships.
  • We give and receive love.

And we get God.

This is our Father’s heart. Like any good parent, he wants his kids to talk to each other. It opens us up to each other and it opens us up to him.

We’re loving God when we love each other.

I hope to see Mrs. B again at House of the Harvest. And learn more about each other. There is so much more to know. And questions can get us there.

“Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.”
– e. e. cummings

* * *

What are other reasons we don’t ask questions? Have you asked a good question today? Who in your life asks you questions? Who do you ask? Please share in the comments.

Related Reading: 
A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas
by Warren Berger

a-more-beautiful-question

“In many cases, our Google queries are so unimaginative and predictable that Google can guess what we’re asking before we’re three words into typing it. . . . We’re all hungry for better answers. But first, we need to learn how to ask the right questions.”

44 thoughts on “Why Don’t You Ask? And Why You Probably Should

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I know those fears, too, Michele. If I could totally remove fear from inside of me, I wonder how differently my life would look. Thank God for his mercy and grace to be patient with me even with my fears.

  1. jodie filogomo

    I’m that person that always asks questions because I do want to know about other people and their lives. But my mom is just the opposite, and I’ve always wondered if it’s a generational thing? Then again, maybe it’s a personality trait!! Of course, there are times I’m too embarrassed to ask for a name I’ve forgotten, and I really should get over that!
    Jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com
    #TuneinThursday

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It could actually be some of both, Jodie–both personality and generation. I think our generation is more open to discussing things than our parents’ generation has been. I think specifically about the World War 2 veterans who were far more reluctant to tell their stories than today’s veterans.

  2. Sherry Stahl

    Lisa,
    I love this post. My hubby is an expert questioner. I’m trying to learn from him. This past year in my John Maxwell training I went through his book Good Leaders Ask Great Questions and your post is a great reminder to what I learned there. Praying you have wonderful connections as you intentionally ask great questions to those around you.
    Linking up from the #HeartEncouragment group.
    ~Sherry Stahl
    xoxo

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I haven’t heard of that book of John Maxwell’s, but it sounds wonderful. I’ve enjoyed every book that I have read by him. He is quite the inspiration. I’d love to sit with him and ask him questions, and see what kind of questions he would ask in return. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this, Sherry.

  3. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Great post, Lisa!

    I think another reason we don’t ask is because we often misinterpret body language; I have been told that my expression and posture (along with mirrored Oakleys) made me look unapproachable.

    I;m really not that way, but habit and lack of feedback had allowed bad habits to develop.

    Although…when I was being coached by a friend, he suggested I lose the sunglasses. When I took them off, he said, “Put them on again. Your eyes are even scarier.”

    https://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2017/05/your-dying-spouse-314-milestones.html
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Your Dying Spouse 314 – MilestonesMy Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for that addition, Andrew. I agree: there are lots of times when I don’t ask because I sense the person doesn’t want to be asked. Sometimes that may be valid; other times, not. Your friend’s comment cracks me up.

  4. nylse

    Stopping by from chasingcommunity –
    Sometimes it’s simply my mood and I’m just lazy – still not a good reason, because I love asking questions and better yet I love hearing the answers.
    Thanks for this reminder.
    nylse recently posted…Through the Lens of MarriageMy Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Me, too, Nylse. Laziness often keeps me from speaking up (and doing other things as well! ha). But it’s something I need to fight against. Thanks for dropping by.

  5. Brenda

    Being an extrovert, I tend to “read the room,” to determine if folks seem like they want to be talked to, but ya know, perhaps sometimes they want to be “asked,” need to be asked, even–but, it’s not obvious from the outside. Thanks for this, Lisa. Will make a better effort to not just see others but make sure they know they’re seen. (And, I love that y’all pray for the House of Harvest folks while delivering their groceries to their cars. What a gift.) — Thanks for sharing with #ChasingCommunity today. Great to connect with you. ((Hug))
    Brenda recently posted…I See YouMy Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It would be interesting to do a poll of a room of people to determine who would want to be approached and who wouldn’t, and see how it meshes with our preconceived notions. I guess the only way to know for sure if someone wants to talk is to start talking to them and see what happens. You can likely do that better as an extravert than I can as an introvert. 🙂 God bless you as you use your gifts to make people feel seen.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Crystal. And sometimes it’s easier to be on the asking end of the question than the answering end of it because that can protect our reputations even more. 🙂 But true relationship requires revelations from both parties, even when it feels risky.

  6. Cassie

    Lisa!!! The radio announcer on the Christian station was talking about this this morning! Well… how to be social anxiety, but what she said aligns up perfectly with what you have here. Her words, and yours, have really challenged me to build deeper relationships. Thanks for sharing your heart!

  7. Trudy

    I love this, Lisa. Thank you for giving me pause to reflect. I do like asking people questions, but I don’t always because I feel like I might be being nosy. And I like to ask questions better than answering them… Love and hugs to you!
    Trudy recently posted…Whispers of Rest: A Book ReviewMy Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Once again, it sounds like we are alike on this, Trudy. 🙂 I’m always a little fearful of being too nosy as well, but I do like hearing other people’s story!

  8. floyd

    Loved this post, Lisa. It points to so the issues of our hearts. Pride wants to talk about ourselves. Humility wants to learn about others.

    You know a conversation is going to be shallow when the other person is only talking about themselves.

    This is a great reminder to be the mouth and ears of God.
    floyd recently posted…THE VOICE OF A GENERATIONMy Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yeah, this does point to a divide between pride and humility. It’s amazing how we can walk away from a person having had only a one-way conversation sometimes. Going either direction…says something about us all.

  9. valerie

    Oh man, I have a major problem recognizing people I have already met. I even found out there may be a name for it (facial blindness). It’s so embarrassing when they remember me and I have no idea how or where I’ve seen them before. I usually tell the person that as hard as I try to remember their name I may forget. This is such a great post. I think asking questions really helps you get to know someone and show them you care.
    valerie recently posted…5 Truths For When You Feel InadequateMy Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Sometimes I wonder if I have a touch of facial blindness too, Valerie. I definitely had it with the lady at church! ha. So embarrassing. I know we all can forget names, but I sure do hate to forget a face as well.

  10. Alyson

    I am bookmarking this article, Lisa! I need to remind myself of this often: better to be embarrassed and friendly than preserve our reputation and appear snobby. Time to get over that fear of embarrassment.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Alyson. We can come up with lots of tactics to protect our reputations, yes? I know I sure can, unfortunately.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Bethany. Sometimes I have to push myself to get out there and open up enough to ask. So this is for me too!

  11. Jean Wise

    Good thoughts. I think I don’t ask since I am an introvert – takes too much energy to ask. I need to stretch myself to interact. It’s exhausting!! I reread your 4 reasons and I know I have experienced all the them at some time. Thank you for clearly expressing these. I think this will give me more courage the next time. Have a great weekend.
    Jean Wise recently posted…St. Brendan the Navigator – A Story of TransformationMy Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I agree that it can be exhausting to stretch ourselves in this way, Jean! I totally relate to that, being a fellow introvert. 🙂 I can do it for awhile, then need to back off and recharge.

  12. Debbie Kitterman

    Lisa, when my daughter was in high school, her friends would play a game similar to this. You had to return every question with a question and if you didn’t then you were out! I love that you gave a reason of why you SHOULD ask the question. Thanks for instilling bravery within all of us and thanks for the linking up with #TuneInThursday this week. See you next time!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      How cool that your daughter and her friends played this game. I need to formally try it with someone just to see how it feels! 🙂

  13. Amy L Jung

    Oh, my…these are all great reasons to come out of hiding and ASK! Another reason that compels me is to do unto others as I would want to be done unto me. Too many times I’ve longed for someone to ask me questions, break the ice, get to know me better, keep the conversation going, show interest. Too often it hasn’t happened. When people ask nowadays, it’s truly a breath of fresh air. You were a breath of fresh air to that woman in line and your post is too!
    Amy L Jung recently posted…The Fourth Way to Practice the Presence of God…Even if You’re BusyMy Profile

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Amy. Yes, there are certain situations when I feel I’m the only one doing the asking, so when someone else asks about my life, it’s very refreshing. That’s how I felt with Mrs. B. She was genuinely kind to make it a two-way conversation.

  14. Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Lisa,
    Your post makes me think of my dad who used to tell me that if you ask questions, people will think you are a brilliant conversationalist. How true? So many people want to just talk about themselves, but like you pointed out, each person is unique and how loved we feel when someone takes the time to ask us a question about ourselves. Great post!
    Blessings,
    Bev

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I agree with your dad, Bev. Plus, we come across more wise when we ask more questions than give answers. 🙂 Most everyone loves to talk about themselves when given an opening, so it is a gift when we can provide that opening. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m guessing you could really appreciate the movie, Anita. It’s not exactly realistic, but it at least attempts to address mental illness in a human way.

  15. Pingback: The Simple Secret to a Joy-filled Carefree Life - Counting My Blessings

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Well, if we were at the same church, we could introduce ourselves to each other over and over, none the wiser. haha. Thanks for sharing this, Barbie.


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