Letter No 44 - How to talk to people

I met a young friend yesterday after almost five years. The last time I met her, she had been in the the 12th grade. Now she has completed her graduation. She told me about the business she had started. I felt so proud of the way she was speaking about what she is doing. My teacher's heart was smiling :-)

I proceeded to asked some questions:

Why are you doing this?

How can I help?

What keep you up at night?

What are you working on that you don't want to work on?

What can you do to stop working on it?

What are you not working on that you want to work on?

Why are you not working on it?

How do you feel about the priorities you have identified for yourself?


Obviously, just in case you are wondering, I asked these over a period of time. It was a conversation. But I could see my friends face light up with with many aha moments as I gently placed questions to her. I could hear her thinking - gears turning and levers moving inside her head. It was as though she was sifting through all the thoughts inside her own head and connecting some dots and putting aside others. She was doing 'sense-making'

Good questions have the following qualities:

  1. They respect the other.
  2. They don't attempt to interrogate or check their knowledge.
  3. They don't presume answers.
  4. They are open ended and allow the other to direct the answer.
  5. They are meant to be prompts to empower the other person's thought.
  6. They don't require a counter-response or explanation from the questioner.
  7. They enable sense-making for the other.


At one point my friend went - "ahhh, now I get it, what I really need to make things happen the way I am visualising is a good team!"

She was was convinced that was what she needed. She started telling me how she has not been able to find the right kind of team to work along with her.

I asked "What is stopping you?"

She went, "People don't use their brains. They just want the easy way. It's too difficult to find good people."

My next question was "If you were the right kind of person, what would attract you to work for yourself?"

Then there was silence. The wheels in her head were turning.

"Hmmm. That's interesting. I would want to work for someone who is already creating results."

I silently held the space for her to ponder further on that thought a few more moments.

"Shucks..." she exclaimed. "First I need to create results on my own. Only then I can attract the right kind of the team!"

She had discovered it on her own. It was not a piece of 'wisdom' I had imparted to her. That's a powerful thing. When I discover something on my own, I feel accountable towards it. I feel motivated to take action. It become my baby, not someone else's.


Thats the power of good questions in a relationship. They make sense-making happen. They allow people to discover for themselves.

So, go out there and experiment on a few people around you if you feel like it. Ask them some of the questions I shared. Ask, and then listen for the wheel in their head turning round and round. Wait for their aha moment. You will enjoy it thoroughly. And they will love you for it.

"Be interested in order to be interesting."

Moreover the conversation that will follow will surely spark something in your mind too. You will discover something about yourself as the other discovers something about themself!

Talking to people is easy, if you are ready to ask genuine questions, and curious and interested enough to listen and willing to let them do more of the talking!

And, here's a song for you🙂