Look Smarter Than 90% Of The People Around You...

Several weeks ago I was in St. Louis for classes.  One of the classes that I took was an evangelism and assimilation class.  During one of my sessions we discussed the art of asking questions and responding to questions with questions.  Now, I have previously written on this subject in the posting titled, "The Art of Answering with Questions," however, in this posting I would like to focus on three simple questions that were presented by Bill Jack in his presentation titled, "Simple tools for brain surgery."  Bill Jack shared three straightforward questions that can be asked when put into an apologetic and/or confrontational situation with another individual.  They are roughly as follows:

  1. Can you please clarify that for me and explain in other words what you mean?
  2. How did you come to know that or believe that?
  3. Are you positive that this is certain; are you sure that you are right?
What are the blessings of these question?  Answer: they are simple, you can ask them in a position of humility and they also help uncover a person's presuppositions.  

Let's take a look at each question in a little more depth.

Question 1:  Can you please clarify that for me and explain in other words what you mean?
When we are put into a confrontational position, whether we are evangelizing, visiting with a neighbor, working through an issue in the work force or dealing with a conflict in the church, question #1 helps clarify what the real issue is.  In other words, often times the issue that is being presented is not really the issue at hand.  This question not only puts a little pressure back on the other individual but it also forces them to be assertive with what their real concern is.  Furthermore, this question also puts pressure back on the other individual for them to see for themselves if they know exactly what they are concerned with and whether or not they have spent sufficient time in thinking it through.

Question 2: How did you come to know that or believe that?
The second question does a wonderful job of surfacing the source of the other person's concern and issue.  Are they basing their concern, issue and/or stance off of gossip, hear-say, misguided information, un-thought-out personal opinions, etc... all of these are revealed through simply asking the second question.  This question not only helps you understand whether or not you are dealing with a legitimate concern but it also begins to reveal the other person's worldview.  In other words, the question reveals the other person's epistemological sources; the source or operational framework of why they act and reason the way they do.       

Question 3: Are you positive that this is certain, are you sure that you are right?
The third question is similar to the second in that its goal is to find out whether or not the person's concern and/or dialog is rooted in a worthy epistemology.  It challenges their worldview.  Furthermore, this third question also injects a degree of humility into the other person and opens the door for you to share your concerns and thoughts.    

During the presentation Bill Jack said something to the effect, "By knowing and using these three questions you can look smarter than 90% of the people out there."  I originally chuckled at this comment and my pride took it to heart.  However, that should not be the driving force to asking these questions.  Rather, I submit these questions to my blog and to you as a tool for effective communication and dialog... especially for those of you in the arena of ministry.  I believe these questions could be a wonderful blessing in the area of evangelism, conflict resolution in the church, spiritual care, and basic ministry functions.  

Our goal is never to win an argument just for the sake of  winning nor to one-up another person, but to clearly communicate and minister the blessed Gospel of Christ.  May these three simple questions serve the ministry of the Gospel.

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