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The Art of Asking Questions

think stencil art & graffiti cat

think stencil art & graffiti cat (Photo credit: urbanartcore.eu)

Yesterday , I was brainstorming about finding an interesting game to be shared with a friend and it dawned on me that we could do it by asking each other questions that take thought and  daring. Then it so happened that during the course of the day I sent a friend request to a celebrity Facebook member. Unlike most other celebrities who accept friend requests without asking much- taking it for granted that the person is just another fan- he dived straight into asking a lot of questions- who, where, and the like. Some of the questions sounded pretty harsh to start with, but then it smoothed into a comfortable flow, coming from a genuine desire to know and understand. Eventually I decided to shelve my game for the time being, but a significant part of my thoughts went probing into the art of asking questions.

Suddenly I realized that there’s a lot more at stake in the transaction. Strictly speaking this isn’t the first time the topic has come up-I have had an adult life’s share of experience with uncomfortable questions and smartass answers. However this time I was thinking of deliberately introducing difficult questions and why they are important. My google search yielded some insightful stuff, like this Harvard Business Review blog post by Ron Ashkenas, bearing the same title. However, here and elsewhere I got to, the discussion revolved around the structured worlds of business, education and coaching. Things have to be much trickier and murkier in the realm of inner and of interpersonal spaces.

Children are known to throw around uncomfortable, undiplomatic questions. As adolescents we are still at a loss how to frame what we want to know and convey. By this time however we can sense the awkwardness that follow some of the exchanges. Most can steer clear of too much of unpleasantness as they reach the adult status.

The progress varies greatly from here. The sensitive kinds become too scared to ask questions, aside from the most basic and inane ones. Some of us develop the impression that the sophisticated thing is to not appear too obvious and resort to indirect methods. In both cases, conclusions are mostly based on presumptions and assumptions and no open conversation happens. We are equally scared to probe deep into what goes on inside of our heads. Understandably, we grow very little as people, and our relationships lack depth and intimacy.

It is yet another question how to create interpersonal spaces where people feel welcome to ask questions including “pain questions” and validated in their frank responses. This is in a way an exercise in building trust, demanding thought, courage, sensitivity and commitment from all involved.

And then there are answers and solutions we seek in our field of work/engagement; and also the BIG Questions. (We might think that  the BIG questions are the worry of the Big Brains sitting at universities and institutes. In my experience, anyone with an active curiosity can’t help getting into these tricky affairs. Moreover, the questions didn’t become big because they were formed by the Big Brains, did they? )And the questions we need to formulate are getting trickier by the day. They are not only more interdisciplinary, leaving us with no firm foothold from where to throw the net for that elusive fish of an answer; oftentimes we end up changing our mind about what it is that we are seeking.

So what is your style of asking questions?

May 8, 2013 Posted by | communication, consciousness, creativity, self expression, talk, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

The Unspoken Thought

Birth of the poet

Image via Wikipedia

What happens when one has too many thoughts and feelings that do not find their way out?

A common thought, especially in my parts of the world, is that they all build up to volcanic release at some inconvenient moment. A poet friend recently wrote of ‘the storm within’.

I somehow find this to be untrue. A lot of loving letters, ideas that captured my imagination at the moment of inception, died down just because I could not put them down in paper. Now I have only a vague memory of what I wanted to do with them.

Sure there is a gestation period. But once the time has come, the word has to be out. Else, it just dies, much like the baby that’s trapped in the womb.

There’s a difference though-unlike the baby, the idea doesn’t leave much to look at.

September 27, 2010 Posted by | creativity, self expression, talk, Uncategorized | , , , , | 3 Comments

The Life of a Word

Not sure if someone has said this before: “writing to me is like a snake shedding its skin. I move on and the thought is no longer part of me”. This is how I have often felt- at least during my early writing experience. There is a certain kind of re-emergence happening.

There is a difference though. The skin the snake sheds is a lifeless thing. It just lies there. One need not elaborate on the power of the word. All the great literature of the world, all the oratory stand testimony to that.

Isn’t it strange, the power a word has? What is a word after all? A word is just a symbol of an object or a thought. It is a mere carrier, without mass. Except when written, a word doesn’t require space either.

Is it energy or life a word has? Is a word like a knife thrown or a bullet shot? Perhaps. Except, the path of a knife or bullet is fairly predictable. In the hand of a good marksman it finds its target. Else, the path is still a simple curve. Not so with the word. Even the most expert writer or orator cannot chart the course a word takes.

Maybe a word is a living thing. It feeds on emotions and needs. Perhaps it is akin to a virus- once thrown out, it lies dormant and acquires full life only when it finds another live thing. And then it all depends on how the host is wired.

September 1, 2010 Posted by | communication, consciousness, philosophy, self expression, talk, Uncategorized | , , , | 3 Comments