Monday, March 19, 2018

The Art of Questions

By Danielle’ Dimond
Follow Danielle' on Instagram @my30somethings

Has your 4-year-old ever asked you a boring question? I mean, ever? You’re thinking about it…and the answer is…an emphatic NO!! Kids don’t ask boring questions! They ask, “Why does Mr. Smith spit when he talks? Why can’t I have Kit Kats for breakfast? Where do babies come from? Why does the dog eat her own poop? Can I eat my poop? Why not? Who made our house? Can I get a giraffe? Where is Constantinople? How many people have you met in your whole life? Why doesn’t Mrs. Haniger wear a bathrobe to get her mail? Do giants drink hot lava instead of hot cocoa?” Kids know how to ask a question that gets your brain cranking. Sure, your brain crank will eventually snap and you will be willing to sell your own fingernails for a quiet drive to the grocery store, but those questions are anything but boring.

As a newly called Relief Society teacher using the new discussion-based curriculum this year, I have done a lot of question crafting and trial asking and word picking. The art of asking questions has taken on a life all it’s own and I have found myself really thinking carefully about all the questions that I ask. In Relief Society I can get a lively discussion from asking a perfectly crafted question. Whereas a question with little to no life will get a well harmonized, but no less awkward, cricket chorus. I’m finding that the same can be said for the questions (and answers) I ask of my kids, my friends, my husband, my visiting teaching sisters and that really nice lady I always see at the park. There is a real art to the Who What Where and When of question asking! 

Questions are powerful tools! They CAN serve two purposes. The first is obvious, an answered question provides us with information we didn’t originally have (or usually in my case, I forgot). But the second purpose is the clincher! An artfully crafted question communicates to the recipient that we want to know something about them. It says we’ve been thinking about them and wondering and, golly gee, we really want to know why they always wear a scarf on Sundays! Or whatever. (Scarf wearer, you know who you are and this question is coming for you!)

If you’re like me and you don’t like the stale, one-word answers you’re getting from people, you need to spice up your questionnaire! Ask your teen the ever inartistic, “How was your day?” and, honey, you’re going to get a shoulder shrug and an inartistic, “it was ok.” That’s just science. If you ask your 9-year-old what they did at school, the rules of child engagement clearly require a “nothing” response. 

The Art of Asking Questions

WHO should you ask questions? 
Everyone. I’m telling you everyone has something interesting to say to a well-asked inquiry and almost everyone WANTS to answer one. The lady next to you on the park bench would love to tell you about her bracelet and she may not have gotten it where you think she did. The grocery store clerk would gladly share his ear gauging techniques with you and will smile the next time you see him at the register. The woman you visit teach who seems so closed off to you no matter how much you show her you care really does want to share things with you. Your hubby wants to tell you about the new deal he’s working on at work and good heavens your kids really DO want to tell you about their day at school. You just gotta make that question so juicy and drool-worthy that people can’t wait to open their mouths and hearts to you! 

WHAT should you ask? 
Anything. You can ask anyone almost anything if you lead up to it properly and have already proven that you care. This can take time for some people who aren’t open books, but can be the most rewarding. A lot of ground work and follow-up inquiries help to get to the more meaningful stuff. Some people are more open than others, but I have found that in general, if a person knows you care about the answers they give to smaller questions, then they’ll feel safer answering your deeper ones. 

WHERE and WHEN should you ask? 
In the car is my personal favorite! At the kitchen table (yours or someone else’s) during any activity that takes place there. Bedrooms when you tuck the kids in at night. Couches when it’s quiet. A front porch when a house is too noisy or the park on a nice day when the kids are playing. Quiet times with no distractions are the times to ask important questions. If those times are impossible to come by, then it’s just important that YOU don’t get distracted. Remember your questioning is art at work! Look them in the eyes; ask small follow-ups so they know you’re focused and that you think they are just the most interesting human in the world.

The Art of Answering Questions

Have you noticed how a 4-year-old girl asks 14.3 million questions a day and a teenager asks maybe 1 and that’s usually just a hangry demand to know what will be served for dinner. What happened in between there?! Not only do the number of questions plummet with teen-hood, but the willingness to answer more then 1 or 2 questions at a time crashes as well! Is it possible that our own answers to our kids’ questions will directly result in the answers they will be willing to give us later on? If I am constantly shushing or claiming my ignorance to my little ones’ real wonder, am I teaching them that their curiosity doesn’t matter to me or that too many questions are not okay? Yikes! That’s a lot to think about right there! I don’t know the answers to these questions for sure, but I’m thinking I’m going to cover my bases and go ahead and answer each and every one of those sweet questions that get tossed my way. I’m going treat my answers like works of art, too! Well yes, sweetheart, I’m pretty positive that giants DO drink hot lava instead of cocoa AND I’m sure they add dollops of fluffy clouds to serve as marshmallows while they sit on the tops of moss-covered bushes to relax…