Learning to ask questions

Happy New Year everyone. This past year has been very challenging and still more uncertainty looms. This past week held additional challenges for me, as my dear friend from England was due for a visit. There was already mounds of stress in getting him here amidst all the Covid regulations which severely restricted his movements initially. So tensions were high by the time we decided to rent a car and take a few day trips throughout the province. Trying to rush around to places in the limited daylight, combined with paper-map navigation and poor signage led to the subsequent inevitability of getting lost and we ended up immersed in conflict which I felt was directed at me. At one point, it was so bad, I wondered if our 20-year friendship was in danger of ending for good.

When we got home that night, I decided instead to take a massive step back and distance myself from all of my cascading feelings of anger, disappointment and upset and to take a different approach. I actually wanted to understand how we had got to that point and decided to ask questions. Not pointed, accusatory questions, but open, enquiring ones, to genuinely understand where this person was coming from.

The results were incredible. From just asking questions, I found out things about my friend that I never knew, even though we’ve been close for such a long time. It helped me to understand things much better and to empathize with some of his struggles. And the healing was profound and we were able to move forward and beyond. Knowing what I know now will help me to stave off any potential future problems before they escalate.

As we begin a new year, where many tensions are rife and uncertainty bounds, perhaps we can make things better just by learning to ask questions. We can’t heal or resolve things until we have more information and can better understand what someone is trying to tell us. Undoubtedly, there would be a lot less conflict in the world if we just made the effort to understand each other better and I always say there are more sides to any story than most people are willing to acknowledge. Perhaps we can make this the year that we move out of being immersed in our own stories and learn to make room for the stories of others.

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