The ability to ask open-ended questions and listen with presence is a skill. Good questions have power, not just to garner information, but to change perspective and build influence.
Everyone has relationships in which influence must be built and maintained: spouses, children, leaders, teams, students, etc. Questions are a necessary component to growth in all of these areas.
All too often, attempts to build influence become prescription. Telling another person what they need or should do without giving them a chance to evaluate or explain.
Another mistake is to continually tell people what you need from them. This sends the implicit message that the other person, whether it is spouse, child, employee, or volunteer, is there to serve you. Now you have stolen joy from the relationship and created obligation.
Both of these are attempts to build influence that are centered in self and the need to maintain control.
Recently, a client was having trouble finding a way to effectively maintain connection with a leader without seemingly like they were meddling. In this situation, the person being led reacted very negatively to feeling like they were being managed.
One solution to this problem was to ask a simple question:
What do you need from me?
With these words you can demonstrate compassion and a desire to serve the other by putting their needs alongside your own.
Asking this question communicates your availability without bruising the other’s ego. They may be more likely to ask for help if they know that it is not a sign of weakness to need help.
Additionally, this question places ownership for the circumstance or task on the other person’s shoulders, where it belongs.
Another benefit is that this question demonstrates presence. Seeing the other person as human and not just a solution to your problem or a problem to be solved.
(Husbands in particular, what a great question to show that you are not trying to solve your wife’s problems. This also clears up her expectations for you.)
Finally, this question sets a healthy boundary. How far are you allowed to go before the other person senses your participation as an intrusion. In a situation where you are leading, this sets to boundary of expectations.
Clear communication solves a lot of problems, and this question gives the other person the space to communicate clearly what is needed.
Just one word of advice: if the answer to this question is nothing, be prepared to note what your internal response says about your identity.
Who should you ask the question ‘what do you need from me?’
How would asking this question transform the relationship?
I work with followers of Christ to energize discipleship, improve relationships, decrease anxiety and facilitate leadership development. I am a certified coach specializing in pastoral leadership, relationships, discipleship, life transitions, and Christian identity. Also, I am the author of the forthcoming book Discovering Your Root: Developing Your Identity in Christ.
Services I offer are one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking at organizations/churches, workshops on marriage/discipleship/leadership, and church retreats. For more info, click here to contact me.