The Art of Asking Questions

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”
― Voltaire

A Skilled Interviewer

Are you good at asking questions? Can you strike up a conversation with a stranger and learn something about him or her? It’s part of primate cognitive ability; one of those things that thankfully separates us from apes.

Asking on the spot leading questions is an important skill and not as easy as it first seems. I think I should be good after all; the interview process was always a critical part of patient care when I was working. And yet, outside the hospital setting I pretty much retreat into my own little world mostly because my experience talking with strangers usually is met with surprised stilted conversation or worse, I discover that I monopolize the dialogue and discover I forgot to ask questions of the other person. Bob is great at small talk and is especially adept at conversing with strangers but even he is overshadowed by the skill of my mom and her ability to ask the right questions, learning much about the other person.

Watching the master at, not the stylist, the customer.

Watching the master at work…no, not the stylist, the customer.

Case in point: Last week Mom needed to get her hair trimmed so we ran over to the local discount stylist shop. As we walked in I noticed immediately how quiet it was. There were three stylists, two were with customers and the third was sweeping the floor. There was no conversation except for hair related questions like, “Do you want it shorter around your ears?” The stylist who had been sweeping invited Mom over where they spent the first few minutes talking about hair, length, etc. But as I sat there watching I saw Mom in a very unassuming manner start really talking to the gal. Before I knew it I overheard that not only was this woman pregnant but she was a high risk and she was openly discussing and even asking advice on all these personal issues with Mom.

It was a wonder to watch. And I was reminded of a conversation with Rebecca where we laughed when I told her how I stood in the same line as Mom a while back (for some unforgotten reason), got my item and walked out. A short time later Mom comes out and starts to tell me about the guy behind her and in that same short line she pretty much had learned his life story.

Come to think of it, I think Mom would have been a good spy with the ability to obtain information divulged during a casual exchange. Or maybe she could have been the ‘good cop’ in a good cop-bad cop scenario, the person you would feel comfortable talking to while the other guy’s questions were offensive causing you to clam up.

All I know is that I am going to start working on my own questioning skills and instead of standing in line reading the latest rag mag maybe I’ll try again and strike up a conversation with the person behind me or maybe I’ll just continue to learn from my mom.

Not only a good interviewer but a great grandma!

Not only a good interviewer but a great grandma!

2 thoughts on “The Art of Asking Questions

  1. Oh, i do hope you’ll follow ‘Mother’s example!!! You often find treasure in the least expected people. Quite a number of years ago I had the ‘opportunity’ to stand in line for a lengthy time and ‘met’ the woman next to me. We shared a number of similar interest and lived close to each other. We walked out of the store together, exchanged phone numbers. Later, we got together for lunch and have been friends since. We often go to various meetings, lunch and pour out our woes on the phone. She is such a blessing that stood close, held my hand, and prayed with me (when others didn’t) when my husband was in chemo and radiation treatments. Special special friends don’t come along every day…grab it when it does.

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