Humble Inquiry

Saying to oneself that one should ask more and tell less does not solve the problem of building a relationship of mutual trust. The underlying attitude of competitive one-upmanship will leak out if it is there. Humble Inquiry starts with the attitude and is then supported by our choice of questions. The more we remain curious about the other person rather than letting our own expectations and preconceptions creep in, the better our chances are of staying in the right questioning mode.

We have to learn that diagnostic and confrontational questions come very naturally and easily, just as telling comes naturally and easily. It takes some discipline and practice to access one’s ignorance, to stay focused on the other person. If we learn to do this, the positive consequences will be better conversations and better relationships. For many situations it may not matter; we may not care. But especially if you are dependent on others—if you are the boss or senior person trying to increase the likelihood that your subordinates will help you and be open with you—then Humble Inquiry will not only be desirable but essential. Why is this so difficult?

– Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling by Edgar H. Schein

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