1. Be Curious
The beginning of asking good questions is being genuinely curious about the person to whom you’re speaking. A good conversational tool to keep in your toolbelt is the acronym FORKS. Whenever you meet with new people, ask about their:
“Why” questions are often the best kind to ask. This will help draw out the other person’s motivations, passions, and feelings—which not only makes for better conversation, but also helps you get to know this person beyond a surface level.
Another great way to begin a question is with the phrase “Can you teach me about?” Pick a topic that you know the other person is passionate about or experienced in, and ask or the person to educate you on it. This is one of the most effective (and fun) ways to get to know people and to make them feel valued—and it gives you an opportunity to learn. Everyone wins.
2. Follow Up
Once the other person finishes talking, try to repeat the content, in your own words (e.g., “So, you’re saying?”). Making a habit of asking this follow-up question will help you learn to listen well. It’ll also assure other people that they’ve been heard, and that you value what they have to say.
Another great follow-up question is “Can you tell me more about [choose one part of what they just shared]?” or “What do you mean by [choose one part of what they just shared]?” Not only does this spark deeper conversation, but it signals to the other person, “I’m interested in what you have to say, and I want to make sure I don’t misunderstand you.”
3. Ask Leading Questions
One of the best ways we can love others (and glorify God) is to ask questions that lead to mutually edifying, Christ-exalting discussion. God tells us to think about things that are praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8) and to talk about things that build up the people in the conversation (Eph. 4:29). Think about the kinds of questions that you typically ask. Do they typically stimulate discussions that lead to praise and gratitude? Or do your questions typically stimulate gossip or complaining?
All questions lead somewhere and set the tone and trajectory of a conversation. The next time you’re conversing with someone, ask yourself: Where do my questions lead? Do they tear down or build up? Do they promote anger or love? Do they lead to mutual frustration or mutual edification?
Everyone has something to say—but few have the opportunity to say it, since question-asking and listening are increasingly rare.
The next time you meet with someone, challenge yourself to ask more questions than you answer. This can go a long way in making the other person feel valued—and it’s one of the most powerful ways to communicate the character and love of God.
This article originally appeared at www.epm.org.