I have these rules for life, twenty-eight of them in all. The list is not weighted. The first rule is not more important than the second, in fact, the order doesn’t really matter. Here’s the eighth rule – Asking questions can open locked doors. I obviously don’t mean literal doors but metaphorical ones. It would be kind of silly to stand outside a locked door and ask about its day. And it’s not really a rule, more like a proverb or pithy saying. But questions can unlock doors.
Everything we know about the world and the cosmos begins with a question. Why? How? That inquisitiveness drives all knowledge and frustrates us when we don’t know the answer. This is the black and white realm of toddlers and empirical scientists as they seek to discover how the world works. Without questions, there would be no drive to unravel those mysteries or answers to be known.
For most of us, questions are a means of understanding. Similar in many ways to the questions aimed at knowledge but different. The answers are not always black and white, right or wrong but are often grey (and dare I say it? Sometimes relativistic and situational). Does the soup come with the meal? The answer could be yes or no depending on the restaurant or what entre you order. These questions help us successfully navigate the world around us.
Questions also open doors to restoration. Which may seem odd to you, but it is where I live. Most of my adult working life has been in some form of repair and maintenance. Beginning with TVs and VCR, then copy machines, and ultimately to computers and networks. Questions for knowledge and understanding play a large part. But questions for restoration aren’t just focused on the machinery, they’re also focused on the customer. What is important to them? Where are their pain points? How does this outage affect them? Restoration is often two-fold with questions leading to fixing the problem and often to fixing the customer.
You could put it this way. Knowledge is very black and white. Understanding recognizes the grey realities of our world. Restoration adds color with the addition of emotion and motivation. The last doorway which questions can open provides depth and dimension.
The doorway to meaningfully connecting with others is unlocked by heartfelt questions. Asking questions makes it easier to listen to what others are saying. By asking questions we are investing ourselves and providing a bridge of communication. But these are not the pointed minefield questions of politicians, lawyers, and journalists. These are honest questions that express value in the other person because we’re willing to listen. Our only agenda is getting to know them.
Let’s create some boundaries though. Not all person to person questions fit these categories. Manipulative questions designed to sell or shame do not open doors. These kinds of leading questions aren’t designed to gain information from someone but to influence them. The focus is on the person doing the asking and what is important to them.
Recall this. Even God used a heartfelt question to reconnect with Adam after the fall. “Where are you?” God called as He walked the garden in the cool of the day. That question unlocked a door, “He (Adam) said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:10, NASB95) We can argue that God knew all along where Adam and Eve were hiding but notice that the question wasn’t “why are you hiding?” God wasn’t being manipulative or shaming but engaging.
Listen to your conversations. How often do you ask heartfelt honest questions verse manipulative questions? Is your posture more often one of listening or trying to get your point across? Are your questions closed (only offering a limited response) or open, inviting a fuller response? That was a closed question by the way. In your own experience, when has asking heartfelt honest questions unlocked an unexpected door?
Asking questions can open locked doors