Humble Inquiry

“Humble Inquiry is the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not already know the answers, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.”  Edgar H. Shein

About three years ago, one of my pseudo-daughters and dearest friend and Maui soul sister, Claire, recommended the book Humble Inquiry. I purchased it soon thereafter but left it behind in Texas on one of my visits. I had forgotten about it. If you’re like me, it’s not uncommon to have a stack of unread books or to be reading several at the same time.

At the time I purchased it I must have done quite a bit of shopping, and it probably didn’t fit in my carry on. Yep, I’ve been know to fly with a duffle bag, only to have to purchase a larger one, or a suitcase, as a result of power shopping trips with friends. You know who you are…wink, wink!

Well, I finally started reading the book while in TX pet-sitting for my cousins last year. Yes, you read that correctly- last year. You see I started writing this blog last October but, for some reason,  never ended up publishing it. Perhaps the Universe had a better plan, and maybe now is when we can all use a little humble inquiry.

I was hooked on the book as early as the book’s introduction. In it, the author, Edgar H. Shein, poses the following question:

Why is it so important to learn to ask better questions that help build positive relationships?

The answer: Because in an increasingly complex, interdependent, culturally diverse world, we cannot hope to understand and work with people from different occupational, professional, and national cultures if we do not know how to ask questions and build relationships that are based on mutual respect and the recognition that others know things that we may need to know  in order to get the job done.

The other thing that struck me and made me pause, was that he claims that we, in the U.S.,  live in a culture that overvalues “telling.” Pause….think about it. We are all probably  guilty of taking the art of questioning for granted. According to the author, getting questioning right is more important than giving recommendations or advice.  Yet, how often do we, as a culture, default to the art of telling instead? Some of us tell everything and tell it everywhere….we’re all guilty…just look at social media.

I think for some of us it’s probably in our nature to tell- unless we take the time to rethink, change our outlook and learn how to ask more questions.

He further goes on to say, “The issue of asking versus telling is really a fundamental issue in human relations, and that it applies to all of us all the time.”

I published a blog last year on essential leadership skills – Leadership 101. In it I mentioned the importance of building relationships and asking the questions that enable us to get to know our employees on a deeper, more meaningful level. However, one thing I didn’t mention, and reading this book brought to light, is that the art of questioning becomes more difficult as status increases.

This made me pause as well. Think about it, questions- and the way we pose them- land very differently once we start making our way up the leadership ladder. It’s difficult enough when you are  someone’s co-worker, an equal, and have the same rank. However, as you make your way up the ladder, you are now charged with running, managing and leading an organization. Like it or not, you are now in the spotlight.

The way we pose questions can make or break relationships and derail conversations (and not in a positive way). On a daily basis  (and oftentimes moment to moment), leaders are faced with making decisions and encounter challenges often stemming from cultural, occupational, generational, gender and racial barriers and biases. Knowing the right questions to ask can move an organization forward by drastically improving the way all parties communicate.

Think about how often our conversations with co-workers, superiors, subordinates, friends and family alike go wrong and how easily we get upset with the other person, as well as with ourselves when that happens. Think about how easily our discussions can turn into arguments and hurt feelings. When we “tell” someone something,  give unsolicited advice, or we don’t like the advice we’ve been given, rather than asking the right questions, we can very easily end up in a “situation gone seriously wrong.”

So…how can we do better? According to the chapter on humble inquiry, it’s rather simple. However, its implementation is not. Doing less talking; learning to do more asking in the particular form of Humble Inquiry; and doing a better job of listening and acknowledging is not as easy to practice as we would like to think.

We are so programed to tell, to share our knowledge, our expertise; yet, we fail to overlook the fact that there will always be things we need to learn, and the best way to learn them is by asking the appropriate questions in the appropriate manner.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that places more emphasis on task accomplishment. We are driven by accomplishments, competition and comparison and how we are viewed by others. In other words, we are driven by the Ego- but that’s for another blog!

So…this is where I left off writing last year. I am now being guided to continue as follows:

Given the times we are currently living, all the fake news, discrepancies, misinformation,  the social media bubble we’ve been programmed for, and the blatant lies and lack of leadership we are witnessing from our political leaders right before our eyes, we often fail to look at the other side of things, ask some difficult questions and be willing to learn (and in a lot of cases-unlearn). Many of us tend to just go with our own perspective on things rather than exploring other avenues.

I was listening to a Brene Brown podcast recently where a listener asked why people prefer to believe fake news as apposed to researching and fact checking. Ms. Brown went on to say that the  reason we do this, as research has shown, is that we  prefer to sit with something even if it is false because it would be more uncomfortable to research the lie or the fake news and find that our beliefs were erroneous. How crazy is that!!! Some people prefer to sit ignorantly blissful as opposed to wise and uncomfortable!?!? That damn Ego will get you every time!

Being open minded and constantly questioning and looking at different perspectives is a practice in mindful awareness, And given the times, we can all use some mindful awareness, open minds, open hearts and the empathy and willingness to see and question different perspectives.

When I was on social media earlier,  I  came across a post by The Holistic Psychologist, Dr. Nicole LePera, which speak precisely to this point. In her post, she listed 4 ways we can become more open minded in this area. They are as follows:

  • Regularly consume content that challenges your perception / world view. This allows us to get past our emotional  responses, listen to objective points being made and  understand various frameworks of thought even if they aren’t our own.
  • Learn to become a free thinker.  Most of us are conditioned to repeat  information we’ve been taught. A free thinker engages in conscious thoughts and questions. This is actually a practice of self-trust and self- inquiry.
  • Have relationships, friendships or mentorships from people who have a wide variety of beliefs. This humanizes ” opposing” view points and allows us to evolve beyond one dimensional patterns of thinking.
  • Practice meditation. This allows us to learn a different way of responding to our thoughts and allows us to sit with difficult emotions- which is the foundation of open-mindedness.

We tend to underestimate the power of questioning these days and how valuable and enlightening it can be to learn things we may not have otherwise known had we not taken the time to genuinely engage in the art of humble inquiry. All of the aforementioned points allow us to leave our Ego at the door, allow us to expand and grow, and gives others we engage with permission to do the same. 

Darlings, stay tuned for my next blog where I plan to expand and go into detail on the art of questioning and the numerous types of questions we can add to our toolboxes.

May we continue to move forward with love and intention, curiosity, unity and hearts wide open! JTC

Happy Blogaversary!

“If we don’t challenge each other to use our platforms for better than our niches or what our quote-un-quote brand is, what are we doing as influencers? If we can’t activate our audiences at the time it’s important or needed, then what do we have these platforms for?” Luvie Ajani

Three years ago today, I birthed the InspireLoveServe blog. I’m a firm believer that as we learn  we need to teach, that sharing is caring and that our stories help to heal ourselves, others as well as the collective healing of humanity. Here it is three years later and 165+ blogs written… Cheers! 

So why did I start blogging? I started blogging because lived experiences- our own and that of others- provide us with learning and growth opportunities and a level of wisdom that can be used to guide us throughout the darkest and most trying times of our lives….through the highest of highs, the lowest of lows and everything in between. These experiences show us what is possible when we tap into our inner fortitude, strength, exercise our resilience muscle and take accountability for our life-long learning, growth and overall contribution.  

As we have witnessed in this digital age we’re living, social media platforms of all kinds have the ability to influence and accelerate our learning, growth, activism and contribution in unimaginable ways. While social media often gets a bad rap, especially from people who aren’t even on it or haven’t taken the time to explore it, I believe the benefits outweigh the pitfalls. In my humble opinion, the key is to “curate” our social media profiles in a way so that what shows up in our feeds and who we choose to friend and follow are voices, leaders and change-makers who are adding to our growth factor and to the human collective. The times we are living have shown us all the empowering, as well as the disempowering, impact  social media has on us. So why not opt for empowerment and upliftment…our own and others?

Whether we realize it or not, we are all influencers in life. However, it’s my belief that we must be accountable for the energy we choose to put out there- not only in all our personal and professional relationships and spaces- but on social media as well. I think we can agree that we all have a great impact on people’s lives whether intentionally or unintentionally, consciously or unconsciously. The energy we put out there is either constructive or destructive, positive or negative, influential or ineffectual, wouldn’t you agree?

I’ve often said that our influence is exponential. Now, more than ever, we are all being called to teach, coach, write, speak out, advocate, and lead. Regardless of our positions, careers and roles we play, we all have leadership abilities that can be used to unite not to divide, to love not to perpetuate fear, to praise not to demean or devalue, and to impact and encourage  others in positive and unimaginable ways. Our voices can influence others in all areas of life and can especially influence our circle of friends, family, friends of friends, friends of friends of friends, friends of friends of friends of friends….you get it…..exponentially!  

Successful and admired leaders from all walks of life have the exceptional ability of being able to connect with the human experience – with one’s humanity. I think this is primarily due to the fact that effective and successful leaders have solid, unshakable  core values, beliefs, morals and a social consciousness that enable them to do so. And sprinkle in a little sense of humor, and viola! News flash here: we all have this ability! All we need to do is tap into it, develop it, refine it and put it to good use. 

Given the historical times we are living, the political and social unrest in our country, and the  hatred and vitriol we are witnessing right before our very eyes on TV, in our communities and splashed across headlines, don’t you think it’s high time we all “checked” ourselves? And by checking ourselves I mean taking a deep dive into the roles we individually play as part of the collective and how we are contributing to it. It’s called accountability…wink, wink!

Do we show ourselves love, compassion, understanding and empathy? If we do, then we have the ability to extend that to all our fellow humans because it is a choice we make. If we don’t treat ourselves with love, compassion, understanding and empathy- which is also a choice-  then chances are that we are not capable of extending those same qualities to others and are most likely adding to the states and narratives of fear, division, separation, depression, loneliness, anger and hatred (just to name a few) that we are seeing in today’s society and splashed across all media outlets. All of it is an assault on our nervous system and, as a result, it is bringing up traumas of all kinds in people. Some of these traumas may be  historical, generational, ancestral, shock or developmental. And make no mistake about it, trauma is at the root of all violence….both outward and inward!

Traumatic events that we experience throughout our lives are overwhelming to us physically and/or emotionally. This causes the nervous system to jump into high alert and bringing our mind and body back into balance is affected. If trauma is not addressed and dealt with, it will remain trapped in our body and will cause disturbances at the biological, physiological, emotional, mental or behavioral levels. Unresolved trauma impacts our ability to self-regulate- causing us to respond impulsively and emotionally- and affects our ability to process information. Our brains get compromised by overwhelming amounts of cortisol, thereby causing fragmented memory and compromising social awareness and organizational ability. In a nutshell, the traumatized brain will act as it is cognitively impaired.

If you are interested in reading up on trauma, I highly recommend the following two books:

  1. The Body Keeps Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.
  2. Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma by Peter A, Levine

So back to the subtle art of checking ourselves. By checking ourselves I also mean to check in with our body and its sensations throughout the day and upon interacting with others (something we are always being called to do on our yoga mats): 

  • Pause
  • Be the witness 
  • Observe the feelings that are a result of our thoughts.
  • What emotions were elicited by these thoughts? 
  • What are these thoughts revealing?

Another way we can check ourselves, and one that was mentioned on various energy forecasts I was recently watching, is to listen to the story and the narratives behind the fear and divide we are seeing in our country. We are being encouraged to ask ourselves the following:

  • Why are people trying to create fear, anger and hate?
  • Do I want to believe this narrative?
  • Do I want to be a part of this narrative?
  • How does this narrative make me feel?
  • Is there another narrative I can choose?

And, lastly, some of my own questions:

  • What is my leadership style?
  • Do I hold myself in love, compassion, understanding and empathy? Why/why not?
  • How do I influence those around me?
  • How do I leave people feeling after I interact with them?
  • How am I using my social media platform?
  • What energy am I putting out in the world via my social media platform?
  • Am I using my social media platform to influence, educate, inspire, uplift, advocate, entertain, raise awareness or to add to those fear, division, hate and separation narratives?
  • Do I choose to act or react in challenging situations?
  • What self-regulation tools can I use to keep me from reacting negatively?
  • What added value do I bring to the lives of those around me?
  • What are ways I can start/continue to be of service and contribution?
  • In what ways can I invest in myself and continue my personal and professional growth so that I can further be of influence?

Darlings, we are all part of a human family and part of  history in the making!. What kind of human being are you? What kinds of human beings do you surround yourself with? Are there any personal traumas in your mind/body that need addressing? 

I sincerely hope that you can relate to the content in this blog on some level and want to thank you for taking the time to read it. On this 3rd Blogaversary, I want to thank you if you are an avid supporter and always read my blog. Thank you if you occasionally drop in to read it. Thank you if you care enough to share when you feel called to do so. Thank you for taking the time to share some of your comments with me. Thank you for being inspired to do your own work. Thank you if what you’ve read in this blog causes you to pause, reflect and become more conscious and intentional with how you use your own social media platform.

May we continue to move forward in love and with intention, curiosity, clarity, unity and hearts and minds wide open! JTC