July 09, 2009

The Power of a Question

Written By Cary Schmidt

Helping Others by Asking the Right Questions

Not long ago I was on our church campus on an off day. As I left the building, headed home, there was an unfamiliar man taking photos of our buildings. Trying to be hospitable and also cautious, I approached him and kindly asked where he was from. He refused to answer me and became instantly defensive and sarcastic. A few seconds later, he was angrily walking toward his car, leaving campus—simply because I asked him a question.

Have you considered the power of a question? Just as my question revealed a problem, a question can also open the heart and give way to a world of insightful dialog when you are trying to help someone.

Often times, a question will disarm the conscience and reveal one’s heart to himself. I’ve heard Pastor Chappell say many times, “Accusations harden the will but questions stimulate the conscience.” If you ever find yourself in the difficult position of confronting someone or dealing with a sensitive circumstance, consider using a kindly worded question. Think of this:

  • Rather than—”You’re so angry!” How about—”Have I done anything to hurt you or distance you?”
  • Rather than—”You’re struggling spiritually!” How about—”What’s the biggest battle you’re facing right now?”
  • Rather than—”Your parents said you’re rebellious!” How about—”How are things with your parents?”

If you’re trying to help someone, you have to understand their heart. If you’re trying to heal a relationship you have to know where it really stands. Try asking the right questions and then listening to the answers. Here are a few questions that might enable you to help someone in a variety of situations:

  • “What’s the most important prayer request you have in life right now?”
  • “How can I be a better (fill in the blank—father, mother, pastor, etc.) for you?”
  • “Have I done anything to hurt you or offend you?”
  • “What the toughest thing about being in the 10th grade?”
  • “If you could change anything about your life, what would it be?”
  • “Is there anything I have done to create a distance between us?”
  • “How can I do a better job at (fill in the blank…)?”
  • “How are things going between you and (fill in the blank—God, parents, etc.)?”
  • “How is your relationship with God right now?”
  • “If you could change anything about me, what would it be?”
  • “How do you think you’re doing in this area?”
  • “What do you think is really holding you back right now?”
  • “What are you the most afraid of in this situation?”

The right question asked with the right spirit can open the heart. Often, the response (or lack of response) to a sincere  question can help you understand what’s going on inside a person. Questions are powerful tools. Use them wisely with the right spirit. What are some questions you have found helpful in strengthening others or in building right relationships?