Curiosity Questions to Promote Connection and Communication
In my previous blog, How to Really Listen, I promised to provide some questions that promote a deeper understanding and connection. I have adapted most of these from Virginia Satir’s Iceberg of Emotion – she taught us that we only see people’s coping behaviour on the surface, and it is when we enquire deeper that we can know ourselves and each other. Remember, sometimes it takes many conversations to get to true understanding and better communication.
These questions are not in any particular order. Choose ones that build on what your loved one just shared. Remember to keep communication conversational, curious, open, interested, with eye contact and physical proximity. After each question acknowledge and validate your loved one’s experience. Do not give advice. Reflect feelings, your loved ones' and your own as you learn about their experience. Find common ground, when you can, “yes I know what that is like”. Do not move the focus to yourself. Moments of silence are okay – let your loved one speak in their own time and way.
Make sure you have your partner’s definition of the problem, which is what you insert at the …? Clarifying and understanding each other’s concerns is an important first step. “So you were hurt when I did … so you are trying to make things better between us?”
How are you coping with …?
How do you make sense of…?
What do you believe this means?
Anything getting in the way of you dealing with …?
What are your feelings about ….?
What’s it like for you to have those feelings?
What are your beliefs about this …?
What are you expecting of yourself?
What are you expecting/needing of me right now?
What are others expecting of you/us about …?
What are you yearning for?
What can’t be changed?
What do you/I/we have to accept if we are to deal with it…?
What values do you want to apply in resolving this situation?
What’s the best/worst of your experience with …?
If things get difficult, stop action, take a timeout to calm down (and promise to come back so your partner doesn’t feel abandoned) Once you and your partner have calmed, sigh in relief, or feel lighter you can be reassuring, on point and if appropriate, move into solutions by checking out some of the following
I want to be here for you. Have I completely understood?
Is there something more you need me to understand?
How can I help you with this?
Do we need to make a plan on how to deal with this?
Are we good/flat/on the same page for now?
After the process it is sometimes helpful to debrief:
What was most helpful about how we related today?
What did we do well in this conversation?
What could we do better in the future when talking about difficult subjects?
No matter how the conversation went, end with communicating specific appreciation of each other. This is hard stuff. As my grandmother used to say: “You get more flies with honey than vinegar”. Remember that an unkind word once spoken can not be taken back. In intimate relationships words create wounds that destroy safety and genuine connections.