There are so many areas within our lives that are ripe for improvement. This is true for me anyway. Communication skills for example. Improvements here can make an immediate positive impact on your ability to influence others and solve problems.
I have been partnering with a particular person on a project whose skill at asking questions is very good. Her skill seems to be a habit that she has ingrained because I have noticed it on many different occasions over the last couple months. I think that her skill in asking questions is worthy of analysis, praise and emulation.
For example, when working with a given leader or subject matter expert who asks us a question regarding the project, she invariably asks them a clarifying question, or two, or three, and allows them to share more deeply and clearly before she responds. Often times her question(s) to their question reveals the fact that they are actually making a statement, in the form of a rhetorical question; or, they have something in mind that is not necessarily apparent immediately. They have a reason for asking the question beyond wanting to be told information, and that reason is only revealed when they are prompted by further questions. I not exactly surprised or in awe of this, but close.
Now, I already “know” that asking good questions is a really important and valuable skill. I have told my student this many times! Ah, but therein lies the rub. My de facto reaction to a question is to provide an answer right away, to tell something, to give information. It’s my habit. What has become painfully obvious to me, is that I am not that good at asking questions, even though I “know” that doing so is a valuable skill. So, knowledge of something is not the same as possession of it. Only practice and conscious incorporation into habit generates skill, obviously.
The cool thing is, I have now clearly identified an area where I wish to improve. This is something worthy of putting on my 365 daily list, and focusing on. This focus will raise my awareness of opportunities to practice. When I am in that familiar moment of wanting to provide answers, I will strive to ask a clarifying question or two. I’ll probably do it awkwardly at first, but with continued practice and focus, surely it will get easier, as with all newly acquired skills.
The 365 Commitment is a construct that provides a daily framework for focusing on what is important in our lives. Some habits we commit to doing daily, no matter what; which is as much about character building as it is skill development. However, some items we put on our lists may simply be a focus for that day or that month. Like practicing asking good questions. The point is daily reflection creates self-awareness that would otherwise remain dormant.
What are some things you “know” but don’t practice? There’s a good question for you! How would development of that skill improve the value you can bring to others? Ah ha! Another good question. Maybe I am getting the hang of this. So, consider taking an inventory of the things you “know” are valuable but don’t actually do, and consider putting them on your list and engaging in some conscious practice.
Ben Wagner (63)
Member 365 Commitment