June 25, 2012

The Power of A Question

Last week, my friend called me. We hadn't spoken in a while, and we are both very busy people--that's probably why we hadn't spoken in so long. He had some incredible news to share, and I did, too.

This is the norm for us. We attack life HEAD-ON, so we usually have something incredible and profound to share with each other. 

This friend usually takes a back seat and gives me space to share first. On this day, I gave him that first spot. He began speaking very quickly, sharing the tremendously good news that he and his super rad wife are expecting their first BABY! This is a big deal--because they are coming back from a miscarriage last year. Send them your light and your love.

So he's talking really fast and sharing this good news and we have a great chat about it. Then he says, "and I'm also feeling like I'm going a little crazy." I got it. Without even hearing more, I got it. He expanded upon his recent schedule and how busy and full his life was, how his "life plate" was overflowing, and had been for a really long time. He was desperately trying to solve this math problem of the time he had available and the tasks/obligations he had taken on.

It basically looked like this:

  not enough time + too many obligations + several big life changes coming = overwhelm 

He shared more. I listened. He shared more. I listened more. After about 20 minutes, he paused and said, "so---yeah. I don't really know what to do." As he spoke, I had all these ideas and suggestions floating around my head.

As a health coach, a teacher and general smartypants, I am never at a loss for an idea or solution to propose. But I knew that what my friend needed most was to hear himself speak. And solve this one, himself.

I said, "what I've noticed over the past twenty minutes is that, as you spoke, the pace of your speech slowed down, and..."

he cut me off, "and I'm breathing..."

I said, "yep. You're breathing."

He knows. We've been friends a long time, and he has absorbed a lot of what I'm learning and sharing with folks as a health coach these past few years. He's picked up on the skill of noticing, reflecting and troubleshooting for a solution to make an improvement in some aspect of his life.

While it's tempting to give advice or recommendations when I notice someone struggling, I knew the most powerful way to support him was to ask a question: "so, what can you learn from this observation?"

He said, "I need to slow down more, take more deep breaths---and that means I have to be doing less every day. I need to take on less projects, and make space to enjoy what's coming up for me--not rush through it."

Amen. Amen.

I noticed myself struggling to solve for X recently in several aspects of my life.

Am I making good decisions? 
Am I spending my time and money wisely? 
Am I good partner? 
When is the right time to use male pronouns? 
What does it mean to be "male"? 
Am I cooking enough food at home or spending too much money on eating out?

It's so tempting to reach out and ask someone, anyone, for the "right answer". We are conditioned as kids to believe we don't possess that right answer inside. We are taught boundaries and limits. We are fed other peoples' truths or projections. We are rarely encouraged to seek the answer within.

As we age, it's important to ask someone to listen---and it's even more ideal when someone can ask us questions, so we can find and articulate the truth within us. 

It's the only "right answer".


  1. Yes, brilliant! And this is your gift as a teacher, counselor and friend. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. thank you, both! I appreciate you reading it and commenting. ;)

  3. Dear Dillan,
    (By the way, "Dear Dillan" has the sound of a great advice column!)
    I had this very same experience recently
    And do so on an ongoing basis
    And I thanQ for affirming how to be great friends and listeners "publicly!"
    Awesome post!
    May I repost this on my blog?
    Noah :-)

  4. he told me about that whole experience right after he got off the phone with you! it was the first time he seemed to feel in control of things in months! :) thankks for thinking i'm "super rad" :) that was such an amazing boost to my self-esteem to read! you rule.


Popular Posts

Peeps Who Peep This Website