Does anyone ask you the questions you desperately want to answer?
People ask me all kinds of things, but rarely am I asked about what really matters to me. These are the things I want to talk about, and truly be listened to. In the presence of my friends and family I talk about them, unasked. But I feel that they don’t want to hear about it.
Do you feel this way too?
I want to be asked.
I want to be asked “What have you been doing at work lately?”
Silly, right? People ask “how is work?” all the time. But that’s the sort of question you’re required to answer ‘fine’ to, or ‘busy’. Maybe they’d accept a long answer, but I get the distinct feeling that if I went on a five minute rant about the product I was coating that week, and what went wrong, and about how I nailed that one coat to the exact percentage, their eyes would glaze over.
I want to be asked “How were your runs this week?”
I’d love you forever if you’d listen to me talk about running Abe’s Hill for the first time, and my 5k on the weekend–and then ask “then what happened?” like you mean it.
I want to be asked “What are you reading these days?”
Plato–The Republic, and Lord of the Rings. Ask me about Plato, and why I’d even pick it up. Ask me about what I’m learning from those books. Gosh, look at the size of the three-in-one volume of Lord of the Rings. Doesn’t it just beg to start a conversation?
Ask me about my writing projects and don’t look too shocked when my eyes light up and I expound on clones, and the archetypal city, and the righteous poor, and the adventures of some ‘made up’ character.
The problem is…
The problem is that I don’t ask the right questions either. If I were observant, and not all wrapped up in myself like I tend to be, I might know the right questions to ask YOU. The questions that make your face light up like a Christmas tree. The ones you can deliver a spontaneous fifteen minute lecture on.
I stumbled across one of these questions by accident, this summer. I’d had difficulty connecting with a coworker, a gentleman from Bangladesh, until one day I asked him “Are you following the FIFA World Cup?”
Yes! Yes he was. He was following Argentina. He’d followed Messi since the soccer star was a much younger man. He (my coworker) had actually played soccer in college. And off we went–because college led to discussions about our families, and once you start talking about your families you have lots to go on.
I began checking the World Cup stats every morning so I’d have something to say to him when we passed in the hall.
Doubtless, asking a good question won’t always have the same success. But I’ll warrant that if I’d regularly pose purposeful questions, I’d often stumble on good answers, perhaps even on a new friend. But this won’t happen if I’m not looking, using Sherlock Holmes powers of observation to discover what makes people tick.
I’m not good at that, I admit. But I realize now that I can’t make people take a genuine interest in me. All I can do is provide that loving courtesy to others, because I truly believe that to listen is to grant deep respect and honour to another. We need to be listened to. It is psychological oxygen, to borrow from Dale Carnegie.
What to ask?
So tell me. What do you want to be asked? What is that thing, buried deep in your chest, that you NEED to talk about?
I WANT to ask. Forgive me if I forget to look.