Monthly Archives: January 2014

Learn About Others by Gently Probing

Relationships grow when people learn about and appreciate each other. I believe that many of us can benefit from being very intentional about reaching out and getting to know each other in our work places, communities and even families.

Edgar H. Schein in his new book: Humble Inquiry: the Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling (2013) writes, “Why is it so important to learn to ask better questions that help to build positive relationships? Because in an increasingly complex, interdependent, and culturally diverse world, we cannot hope to understand and work with people from different occupational, professional, and national cultures if we do not know how to ask questions and build relationships that are based on mutual respect and the recognition that others know things that we may need to know in order to get a job done.”

Schein states that not all questions are equivalent.  He has come to believe that we need to learn a particular form of questioning that he first called “Humble Inquiry” in Edgar H. Schein’s earlier book, Helping (2009) and Humble Inquiry   he defines as follows:

Humble Inquiry is the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.”

Listening to understand and appreciate.  That makes sense to me.  I don’t think it is an easy thing to get good at and I also think it is worth getting good at!  I believe that we and generations to come will benefit from co-creation of ideas, plans, solutions, and futures.

Schein’s book, Humble Inquiry may help people to gain awareness and dispositions related to gentle and thoughtful probing as we getting to know those around us.

Here are links to other posts I have written related to getting better as listeners and developing communities and thoughtful conversation:

Listening>turn taking

Food for thought related to the potential power of listening

A Community of Thought

Engaging in Conversations where Transformation has the Potential of Occurring