How much do I want to read more? 7/10
The book was unexpectedly good to me: "it sounds real". The author speaks from his real experience, and thus it's moving. We can feel he really worked on making connections with people throughout his life. He really had a trauma in the first part of his life (social phobia), then really had a breakthrough, which convinced him to dedicate his life to this purpose.
The result is a subtle set of concepts, a framework, helping to truly connect with someone else, and make a difference, not only in that person's life but also in one's own life.
[quote, Sam Keen]
Nothing shapes our lives so much as the questions we ask, refuse to ask, or never dream of asking. Our minds, bodies, feelings, and relationships are literally informed by our questions.
Instead of getting something from the world, I suddenly had a desire to give. To give all I had.
As I got off the bus, I was floating and found myself saying, “Yes, Yes, yes!” I was seen, I was heard, someone understood me, and not only knew but valued my life experience, maybe for the first time in my life—and it felt like a weight had been lifted. I was accepted for who I was, and that was all that mattered.
He taught me the value of connecting. Perhaps the most important lesson is that people want to be heard and understood. It may be the highest calling of our humanity.
Since that moment, I have dedicated myself to exploring ways to connect and invite “real” conversation to be a part of our normal lives. From my perspective, what is missing are questions. powerful questions! Questions that allow for unscripted responses, leading us to places of the unknown. Conversations in which deep listening can happen almost effortlessly.
The Asking Powerful Questions Pyramid
Intention: I am willing to know you
Rapport: I see you
Openness: I hear you
Listening: I get you
Empathy: With you
People want to be seen. They want to know that you hear them (Openness), get them (Listening), and can feel what they are feeling (Empathy). Each of the Pyramid’s layers communicates a desire to make a connection—a desire to truly discover someone.
How do we experience reality fully? Where to start? Why do we choose to read, or watch or counsel or drug ourselves, having been taught to seek only outside for answers? Why have we never been told to ask ourselves?
Who Is This Book For?
Are you ready to dance with the mystery? Are you ready to explore the unknown that surrounds you? We all have interactions and moments with other people that have made us wonder what the story is behind their life choices. Are you curious about what they are thinking? Curious about what is really going on?
no matter what you do, you interact with people, and everyone has a unique story to tell about who they are in the world. Each person has something valuable to share. The hard part is getting to that value
There is a wealth of intelligence available in the people around you and new insights to be found by asking powerful questions that will lead to a new level of collaboration and innovation.
You can be a catalyst to creating conversations that matter.
The people in your life have unique perspective. Gaining an understanding of that perspective will broaden your worldview.
It was one of those deep dialogues that changes the worldview of both people.
When I saw her next, she was choosing ways to make a difference in the world and was not hiding so much. She realized that everything she really wanted was on the other side of a wall she called fear. Questions created a doorway for her to walk through that wall of fear.
Chapter 1 - Intention
[quote, Bryant McGill]
Every journey begins with the first step of articulating the intention, and then becoming the intention.
The Power of Clear Intention
You can only unlock the true potential of your questions by first being clear about the intentions you’re setting forth both for yourself and in your sharing with others.
A woman is lying in bed.
A man comes in the room wearing a mask.
The man cuts the woman’s chest with a knife.
The woman dies.
One wants life for the woman, the other wants death. Same action, different intent. Different worlds.
How might your intent be influencing what you see around you as possible?
Your intent is the key to unlocking your potential for asking powerful questions.
What did I miss? No quick answers showed up, so I went to my favorite place—the Blame Box. I blamed the students for not being prepared
I was focused on me.
I had focused on the delivery of great material, and it did not matter to me who was in the room or what they wanted in their own lives. I walked in as the expert.
The following day I got a chance to live it all over again. Same room, same material, similar population of students, and a very different focus. My intent this time was to create an experience where people could have a transformative experience with the material like I did.
The only shift was within me. With my intent.
As a teacher, as soon as I walk into a room, my intent has a direct impact on what happens. When my intent is to share knowledge, I become the expert, and everyone else becomes objects or faces with numbers associated with them. When I walk in with the intent to create an experience in which people realize what is possible for themselves, then magic happens.
Let’s get clear about intention. Intention is key to connecting and asking powerful questions, for it brings clarity to others about “where” you are coming from. Sharing your intention allows for full transparency rather than opaqueness that leaves others guessing.
Clarity of intention is about examining the story you are telling yourself and how you are communicating that story to others. Sharing your honest intention means fully understanding the following:
- what you are aiming for
- what your purpose is
- what you plan to achieve
Intention is connected to purpose, and yet it is so much more than that. The root intendere, from Latin, suggests “to stretch,” so when you make an intention, you are inviting yourself (and others) to stretch, grow and evolve toward something greater, to something purposeful.
I have a habit of holding my cards close to my chest and I do not openly share what is on my mind nor what my intent is. It is a habit that has repeatedly blocked connection and has created distance between me and those I lead and work with.
Through my work with a number of companies, I have observed that in most cases, leaders are the keepers of information, knowledge is power, and that when it comes to getting ahead in the workplace, you should only share whatever knowledge is relevant to advancing your own position within the ranks.
The act of asking powerful questions needs support that will come from intention. Working on intention first allows you to begin to focus on who you are rather than what you do. The astounding thing is, the clearer you are about your intention, the easier it is to accomplish what you are up to.
By being clear about your intention, you allow others the choice of which game to participate in.
We spend so much time at work and with our families trying to guess what others are thinking, as if we are all getting a PhD in extrasensory perception
Imagine a world in which people are clear about the reasons for coming together during a meeting.
being honest about what you are aiming to achieve.
Consider how much time and mental effort could be placed on the task at hand and developing the relationship, rather than having to guess what another person is trying to achieve.
When you are clear about your intention with others, you are saying, “I am willing to know you.” This willingness invites others to engage honestly about what they want and what they are working toward. When the conversation has gotten nonfunctional, confusing, or people are being irrational, chances are the intention is not clear.
You cannot ask a powerful question of people and expect great and fresh answers if they are mired down by trying to guess your ulterior motives.
Especially if the question renders someone vulnerable, chances are that a person will be reluctant to answer without your expressed intent.
The scripts playing in the background of your drama will jump up for people and will have a direct impact on the conversation, even when no one is aware of them. Possible scripts are things like, “Am I in trouble?” or “Will I get found out?”
Tool: Be clear about your intention and share it
be meticulous in expressing your intent. Reflect upon what it is that you are truly aiming for.
Her intent, as far as I could tell, was not even clear to her. She was looking for a short-term solution.
I asked questions like, “What is one step that would begin to make this problem go away?” and “What is missing in the relationship, which, if it were present, would profoundly impact the situation in a positive way?”
she was out of tools, frustrated, and did not know what else to do.
She did not really want the people to leave the organization, though she knew that was the most likely outcome of the process.
When her intent became more clear, she felt empowered to create a new option that was not available to her before.
She decided that the best course of action was to initiate a new type of conversation.
Long-ago actions chock full of unclear intent had carved a rift so vast and deep that each could no longer see the contributions the other was making to the organization. Once they understood each other, they each created new intentions, and they were able to form a healthier and productive working relationship.
Being clear also means digging deeper, never settling for the first answer you get. Digging deeper means exploring what truth lies beneath the surface, beyond the rush of the present moment. Often, going deeper means zooming out and seeing the big and overall vision. Some of us need to write our intention down in order to have it well defined. For others, discovering intention is asking ourselves a question that allows for an internal dialogue that leads to a sharp and focused vision, such as, “What am I aiming to achieve here, and what about that is important?”
Often, there is something else—another buried answer or motivation—and then something deeper still.
Future-Focused: Your intention is about how you want the world to exist.
Outcome-Focused: Your intention is dictated by the intended results.
Commitment-Focused: Your intention is about promises you are making now or have made in the past.
When I cannot pinpoint my intention, or I need to do so quickly (i.e., I’m in a room filled with folks who expect an immediate response from me), I use one of these three lenses to get moving in a direction. In the end, I might come up with an intent that does not clearly fit into one of these lenses, and that is okay.
I might ask myself one of these guiding questions, based on the focus I choose:
- Future: How do I want the world to exist?
- Outcome: What result am I expecting from this meeting that would be useful for everyone involved?
- Commitment: What promise have I made that I want to live fully in this moment?
Once you determine what your intention is and can state it in a sentence, then you need to share it.
And how do you know when to share? At the beginning of each endeavor—at the start of a meeting, for example.
Another instance in which it’s useful to state (or restate) your intention is anytime things are tough, ugly, or sensitive. When things get tough, it’s easy for emotional wounds to form and for people to assume what the other’s intent is. By restating your intention, it often acts as a dialogue “reset.”
For a moment, people can zoom out and see the big picture or the grander vision and connect the current tension that created the “tough” spot to the overall intention.
Trap: Intention based on fear
A common place where people get stuck while attempting to get clear about their intention is when they name an intention based on fear (or an intention that is focused on oneself).
If your intention is to find a way to feel safe because you feel threatened or finding a way to make yourself look good, I invite you to examine this closely. Is your intention based on fear?
If that is the case, your intention isn’t useful to you or those around you.
In order to make meaningful connections and ask powerful questions, your desire must be to thrive rather than survive.
Antidote: Intention based on love
Be honest about what your intention is. Get to the core of it. What is it that you are aiming to achieve for the whole? “The whole” includes everyone and everything that you are connected to. Even if fear is present, there is usually something deeper motivating you—though hidden by fear, it is likely coming from a place of love. Like Grandma yanking the youngster away from the hot stove, both fear and love are present.
Tool: Ask clarifying “we” questions
Answering some of the following questions might help you find the love in your intention:
- What is it we are trying to understand that we’re unable to grasp?
- What are we trying to create?
- What will it look like if we achieve our purpose?
Sometimes when we first try to be clear about our intentions we fake it or decide not to share an intention at all. This leaves us in a place of manipulation. Manipulation is making someone do something without ever telling them what it is you want them to do. You ask questions with a secretly expected outcome that only you are aware of. The manipulative intent is to get something from that person without directly telling them what you want.
“When we are done at six p.m. there is a group of old ladies who need to come in to use this space. I don’t know how I will get the room set up in time for their meeting.” Almost without fail someone says, “I can stay and help,”
“Folks, I intend to maximize the time we have together. Another group is scheduled to use this room at six p.m. I have agreed that the room would be reset to their liking. Who would be willing to help me do that at 5:50 so we can be done by six p.m. and they can start their meeting?"
Antidote: Be clear, true, and complete
The antidote to a world of manipulation is to have a clear intention and share it. When everyone understands your intent, manipulation no longer exists. In order for others to understand your intention, though, you must avoid faking it by making something up that you think they would like to hear and omitting the truth, in part or in whole.
Tool: Take the risk and share
Being clear about your intention forces you to be vulnerable, as you are now placing all your cards on the table. This may feel like a significant risk. This is scary for some of us.
In the room setup anecdote I shared above, I needed to ask for help. Asking for help does not come naturally for me; it is hard and still can be scary, even after years of practice. It is much easier to go about my business and “hope” that others will follow my lead. However, the payoff for vulnerability is always worth the risk. It is real and it creates more realness. I’m not saying it is easy. I’m saying that it pays a dividend that, with reflection, makes me say, “That was worth it.” When I ask for help to get the room set up, it can happen so much faster than by doing it myself or by manipulating a few into the process. People actually want to help when given the choice; they just need to be asked or given clear directions.
When being clear about your intention you may find yourself being vulnerable because you are stating your purpose, your aim, and your plan with such rawness that you might be concerned about how people could judge it.
It is a risk. I have found that it is worth the risk because now I have people around me who are agreeing to play the same game or make a difference in a similar enough way that we are on the same team. The intention unites us. Those who choose not to play are free to go and find another game that is more worthwhile for them. As a result, I don’t spend my time trying to convince, sell, or defend the game I say is worthy. When you are vulnerable, you invite others to be vulnerable.
Restating your intention at this moment can create clearness for everyone in the room. “Abby, I would like to ask you a question. My intention in asking is to bring some clarity to everyone about the purpose of this project.
However, by kindly asking a question to understand her perspective, while expressing your own intention, you allow her to share in a way that is not simply her defending her views or those of the client. It allows for the possibility that she can share from a perspective beneficial to all the stakeholders and permit others to do the same. Not only have you sought to understand and express your own intention clearly, but you have also focused on the whole—the group’s intention—by seeking to understand what Abby’s motivation is for asking her question.
The question forces them to think newly about a problem that has existed for years. This new thinking can be scary, so a common response is to tell stories about why the problem exists. This is a moment in which I can pause the story and say, “My intention here is to invite you to think about this in a new and fresh way, leaving behind this stuck place we are in right now. We agreed earlier that this would require some work and maybe discomfort. This is one of those moments. Take time to think about my question in silence before responding. Would you like me to repeat the question?” Repeating my intention brings clarity to the present moment and gets us right back on track.
Tool: Create an initial intent
One last tool before we leave intention. It is helpful if you can create an Initial Intent that can give you direction in your life when the unexpected moments show up. I was working with a new CEO of a large organization, Chris, who was feeling lost. He was getting overwhelmed with all that he had to do, and his ability to build relationships was suffering.
Chris was a “doer” and his task list was long, causing him to work twelve- to fourteen-hour days, seven days a week. In fact, he was so task-oriented that it was difficult for people to approach him out of fear they’d be “interrupting” him.
“Empowering those I lead, by knowing those I lead.”
Over time, Chris got better at turning those little surprise moments into moments of connection.
Your Initial Intent could be something as simple as, “I’m curious to know what makes people tick.”
Here are a few examples:
- I intend to shift my conversations so that I’m not listening to win, to interject, or to prove something but to listen to understand.
- I intend to create a peaceful community.
- I intend to live in a world where everyone belongs.
Your statement should reflect what drives you, no matter what you are doing. Create a statement that you can lean on even when you are surprised at what shows up. You’ll be able to cultivate more serendipitous moments that benefit everyone.
How Intention Can Be Applied in Groups
“It is nothing, my eyes hurt from working too hard and staring at a screen all day.” Without missing a beat, the leader got up and dimmed the fluorescent lights in the room and asked, “Does this help?” The participant responded, “Wow, I did not know you could do that. Thank you.” Her actions matched her stated intent and as a result she built trust with everyone in the room.
Examples of group intentions:
- I intend to create a space in which all of us can find meaning in our work and make a make a difference by contributing to the whole.
- I intend that while we are working together we can support each other in such a way that lifts each of us up to be the best we can be.
Ask yourself, “What am I doing to contribute to the group’s dynamic?” The group’s actions and interactions will reveal whether or not you have expressed your intention well enough.
Ask yourself before you arrive: “What can I do to make people feel comfortable?”
If I can, I take that time outside and do a little wandering and moving around without purpose. I look for beautiful things and walk toward them: a leaf that moves to its own drum during the slightest breeze, sunlight glimmering on a drop of water, a tree standing alone amongst the craziness of the human world of movement. The beauty helps me define my purpose and reminds me of the good in the world. This is a little booster shot, especially if I will be doing some intense work (e.g., conflict resolution).
Stay in the present moment. Greet each person as if they matter, because they do. These small details will show people that you are willing to know them and allow them into your intention.
Summary of Intention
Being clear about what you intend, and sharing it, is a simple yet powerful way to be fully present in the relationships in your life. Be clear, true, whole, complete, and based in love. The result will be fewer guessing games, and you will get more done and make deeper connections.
Self-Work for Intention
Before your next meeting or conversation, spend some time discovering what your intention is: your personal intention and your group’s intention. You might ask yourself:
- What are we aiming to achieve and what about that is important for everyone?
- What is the overall picture that needs to be clear for us to fully leverage our time in this meeting?
- How can I be accountable for the whole?
When you arrive at the meeting or start the conversation, state what your intention is. Destroy the assumption that they know what your intention is by simply saying it. If the focus becomes unclear, or if things get heated at any point during the meeting, pause the conversation and return to stating the intention (maybe try using different words this time). After applying these tactics in three separate meetings, reflect upon those meetings and conversations—see if you notice a difference in how they went compared to how they usually go.
Chapter 2 - Rapport
[quote, Brené Brown]
I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.