Listening Or Telling?

 To be wise has changed from being able to answer the questions                                                      to being able to question the answers.   Unknown

Children ask questions, adults tell the answers. Which is the best way to learn? Students are taught what is already known. How does that help discover new knowledge? Our desire and need to know should lead to asking questions.

Questions are like keys. The right question, asked at the right time,                                        will open a door to something you don’t yet know.  James Ryan

This blog is directly the result of reading James Ryan’s recent book, Wait, What: And Life’s Other Essential Questions. I recommend it. I have often written about the virtues of asking questions, as have many others, but this book gives some excellent examples. This emphasis on question asking is a lot like the current emphasis on the value of failure. If you always succeed you usually aren’t asking questions.

As I read this book, it reminded me of Stephen R. Covey’s 1989 book, The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People. Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Diagnose before you prescribe. I think, even today, most of us are more ready to prescribe and to be understood. Seeking to understand others and understand oneself has been the theme of my Process of Illumination articles, essays and blogs.

James Ryan presents “five essential life questions:” Wait, What?  I Wonder? Couldn’t we at least? How can I help? What truly matters?  His question, I wonder?, is really two questions: I wonder why? And I wonder if?  This chapter hit home to me. His focus is on curiosity, which has been a key concept for me. Curiosity means to have a desire to know and learn. Curiosity and creativity have been themes of my writing for years.

Ryan says: Asking I wonder why allows you to remain curious about the world. Asking I wonder if allows you to remain engaged with the world and is a way to prompt yourself to try something new. And he points out that asking, “I wonder why?” about the present naturally raises the question, “I wonder if?” about the future.

When he discussed the application of these two questions to yourself, I could identify with it. I have always been curious about myself and spent a lot of time looking back and forth in my life history. This has resulted in my writing “The Reinvention od H B”, beginning in 1997 and “The Process of Illumination” beginning in 20010 and “Positive Uncertainty” in 1989. Al of this was a combination of my asking why and if questions of myself and encouraging others to do the same. This book provided some reinforcement.


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  1. Eugene Unger says:

    I got it , get it , and yet I wonder when I will wonder why ? Questions are the heart of health. Where am I? Why am I here ? What needs to be done ? What does God want ? Get ER Done !!! Gene


  2. Marianne says:

    So glad you liked Wait, What? I those are such good questions, even to yourself as Gene mentioned in his reply.

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