Andy Stanley was absolutely on point when he said, “Life change happens in circles, not rows.”

There is no substitute for an awesome face-to-face discussion. Even at the height of technology today, given the choice, I’d rather sit across the coffee table with a few people and have a nice, unhurried talk. It’s just totally better!

Earlier, I shared with you about the first key towards creating an environment that is conducive for a good discussion. At this point, l want to invite you to wrap your thoughts around this next central idea: the beauty of asking questions.

I don’t know if you’ve observed this, but I think it’s easy to notice that people love to talk… especially if the topic revolves around ourselves! We talk about our experiences, our victories, our ideas… and the list goes on. Any person would, in fact, dominate the discussion if left without any sense of intentionality within a gathering! As a result, things become one-sided. Or the sad truth is this — it’s no longer a discussion. There’s no sharing involved. It becomes more like a monologue. (Ouch! But it’s true, right?) So, how do we go about this?

First, we need to change our mindset about how we engage with people.

We need to think less about ‘me’, and more about ‘others’. You must think I’m a little crazy. Well, perhaps… because it’s counter-intuitive. It’s not the usual practice. However, if you want to have a vibrant talk with the people you’re with, we all need to start somewhere. We engage with people with this end in mind: to show a genuine interest in their lives.

Next, we need to keep the ideas flowing.

Open-ended questions have the power to unleash great things. The depth of questions can vary depending on the closeness of friendship and the familiarity you share within a group or context. But don’t forget this: ask questions that are not simply answerable by yes/no or by short phrases. Give your friends/colleagues the “safe place” to think and articulate their ideas. Of course, you can begin with factual things, such as beginning with “what” questions. But as the conversations progress, dig deeper and show a sincere desire to know what each person has to share — what they think ,what they feel, and even what they believe or stand for.

Ask follow-up questions when necessary. Do this especially when you want to clarify or affirm something. You can also encourage more interaction by asking a similar query or directing a follow-up question  to another person within the group. In this way, we get to hear different perspectives on a particular subject matter. Do this with much respect, and with the purpose of building each other up.

I know it can be difficult… but it’s interesting, isn’t it?

Well, I must say that no matter how you do it, it’s important that you ask questions with a deep sense of care and not just a sense of curiosity. The ‘how’ is only secondary to the ‘why’.

People will notice when you show genuine care. They may admit it or not, but this will eventually resonate within their souls. An approach like that gives way for authenticity, which accelerates the depth of a relationship.

What is your usual approach or posture when you engage with others in a discussion? What adjustments do you think you need to make in order to take your discussions to the next level?