Whenever you are questioned, challenged, or resisted, it is normal to react. You will want to defend and explain rather than learn and connect. And that will often yield a "right/wrong" or "me/you" response. Conflict and misunderstanding inevitably follow.
But a better way is to be curious. What if, instead of explaining or defending, you asked probing questions so you could learn more about your own life and leadership?
I have found that non-defensive questions are in the toolkits of the best humble, teachable leaders.
Here are three sets of questions you could ask when you are questioned, challenged, or resisted as a leader. My friend, Dr. Mike Misja of North Coast Family Foundation, helped craft the questions. (Mike wrote the book, Thriving Despite a Difficult Marriage.) These questions build on each other and display a relational curiosity.
1. Wow. So you are saying that... That's interesting. I'm curious. What is it about me that makes you think that? What is it about what I said that makes you say that? Would you tell me more about that?
2. What is your experience of me? How do I make you feel? What is it like for you to speand time with me? Do you think I am hearing you? Or do you feel dismissed by me? When we were talking I noticed that you... and I wondered if you felt/thought... What are your concerns/observations/insights about me? How could I love you and others better? Any other feedback you can offer me?
3. Thanks for your insights. I want to think about what you've shared. Will you pray with me and for me as I seek to learn and grow as a person?
Of course, if you are relationally aware, these questions will lead you to ask even more follow-up questions. Follow the flow of the Spirit as He leads you in the moment. Stay relationally curious.
When you ask questions like these, it's really an act of love.
You'll be receiving love from the person who is questioning, challenging, or resisting you. It takes bold love to speak up and speak out in the presence of a leader. Showing relational curiosity is a way for you to receive love.
And relational curiosity is a way for you to give love. When you want more from the person who is questioning, challenging, or resisting you, it's an act of love toward them because it shows that you value their opinion and insights. It's also an act of love toward God since you are acknowledging that He has put that person in your path to teach you some things about you. Finally, it's an act of love for yourself since you will learn and grow as you practice the discipline of relational curiosity.
What if we all truly became more relationally curious? I honestly think our love for God and our love for others would grow. We'd actually be better at fulfilling the Great Commandment.
If you really grew in your capacity for relational curiosity, what changes might take place in your marriage, with your family, for your friends, and through your ministry?