The question exposed something in me: that I'd not taken good time to reflect on the year or to be thankful.
The question served me well because I was subsequently able to go away and take time to reflect, and have many things to be thankful for, many memories to treasure. The kinds of things that dominate people's blogs in late December
The question served me because it got me thinking about questions. Sean's question was about information gathering, but it was - I think - as much about getting to know us, and to share in our lives.
Jesus said the heart is revealed by the mouth - or, what comes out of the mouth comes form the heart.
So, if you want to know someone's heart you have to get them talking.
I spend my days meeting people. And I love that. I worked in a bank for a while - because I got the job - and because I wanted to work with people. And it's one of the things I love most about doing the 'ministry' job I currently have. I love people.
However, I've wasted many encounters with people by my weak social skills. Things in which I can grow, by practice and with support from others.
I spent new years eve at a party. I'm not good at parties, especially when I don't know people very well. But I'd rather be there, struggle and learn than avoid being there. Life is for learning. Learning is messy and awkward, but worth while. Some people can work a room effortlessly, some of us bumble through, and some of us don't bother. I'd rather stumble through awkwardly than not bother, though I wouldn't have said that a few years ago.
A small proportion of my workplace meetings are with my peers. The vast majority are either with people with 10-15 years less life and ministry experience (students and student workers) or 10-30 years more life and experience (church leaders). How can I approach these?
Andy Stanley reflects on someone spending a day or two with his dad. The man was awestruck by his hero (Stanley's father) and just talked at him the whole time. He missed entirely the opportunity to ask questions and learn something! That happens to me (without the hero worship), and I do it to others.
Good meetings often entail the elder not telling the younger what to do, but enabling them to reflect and grow by asking questions, and genuinely listening. And the younger drawing out the elder with questions so that they can learn from them.
Oxford Professor John Lennox says, "keep asking questions until someone asks you one back..." - when you see me sitting silently, I'm probably having an introvert moment of precious silence in which I'm pondering good questions. The way to to break that silence does need to be a bit more imaginative than "what are you thinking?"
Meetings between people are learning opportunities for both, not self-exhibitions. I miss too many opportunities by talking instead of asking. There are occasions when I ask a question and it serves me by helping me learn from someone else, and by building heart-to-heart relationship. And there are occasions where I ask a question and it serves someone else by helping them to reflect, and by building heart-to-heart relationship.
What are your favourite questions to be asked by other people - and to ask of others?
With thanks to Dale Carnegie for his book, Andy Stanley for his leadership podcast, my pastor, and my friends who are helping me to grow.