Some of the things she talked about, she had never told anyone—she said to me as we were getting ready to leave.
My friend and I were having lunch together on a Saturday afternoon in our college café after working at a convention the college hosted for high school students. Our intent was to grab a quick lunch, leave, and get on with our own things for the rest of the day. But the opposite happened. We sat for more than four hours simply having a conversation.
It started off casual. We talked about the convention. We talked about our classes. Though we’d been friends since freshmen year, with our busy schedules, we rarely had time to meet and catch up. Then I started asking her questions about things outside of school. At first her answers were short and simple. But slowly her stories unveiled themselves in the space we created. Within that space was trust. Trust to simply listen and not judge her.
I remember feeling honored to have been a friend she trusted. It’s amazing what can happen when we give our time to someone to simply listen to them.
But asking questions and listening weren’t always intuitive. What really helped was a class I took that introduced me to the craft of journalism. One of the first things I learned was that people want to talk, even when they think they don’t. I also learned that every person has a story worth listening to—I just need to ask the right questions:
- Ask open ended questions.
- Ask follow-up questions such as Why? or What do you mean by that?
- Ask the person to explain his or her answer.
While interviewing someone, I have to be attentive and give that person my full attention. I have to make the person know and feel that I value their opinion, that I care about what they’re saying. But most of all, I’m there so I can tell their story, not mine. So, along with asking good questions—be a good listener:
- Listen to accurately record what they say.
- Listen to be able to ask more detailed questions.
- Listen so they feel safe to speak.
As the conversation with my friend proved, these skills stayed with me. Fast forward a few years, and I’m here at Q Place, learning about evangelism and the 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations. Turns out asking questions and listening—skills I thought were leftover rocks from journalism class—are crucial in sharing the gospel and making disciples.
Mai Nou Yang
Q Place Office Administrator