We ask the wrong questions. All the time.
Maybe it’s the former journalist in me, but I always yearn for us to ask better questions. Lest you think I get it right all the time, I promise you I’ve learned this lesson the hard way.
In my very young journalist career, I was covering a suburban Chicago park board’s deliberations about adding basketball courts to a large, popular local park. (This is what rookie reporters do, FYI.) A few residents came to the meeting to express their opposition to the addition of the basketball courts. They were concerned about “the element” that basketball courts would attract. The comment was a not-very-thinly veiled racist assumption that black and brown youngsters would be attracted to this area, which was very white, affluent. The question I should have asked, but didn’t have the wherewithal in my early career to ask, was, “What element of people do you mean?” If the interviewee squirmed, I should have asked the question repeatedly. That would have much better served that community and exposed the racism for what it was.
Let’s take another touchy issue that’s in the media right now — abortion rights.
The discussion around abortion rights has surged in a contentious election cycle and after the death of progressive icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the subsequent nomination of her potential replacement, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. I’m not here to armchair quarterback what Senators may or may not have asked Coney Barrett in her confirmation hearings, though if you want to do that, I’m happy to have a sidebar conversation. But I do think the poor question asking is part of what’s led us to this incredibly heated moment.
For decades both liberals and conservatives have focused their fight on whether or not abortion should be legal, if there should be restrictions on it, etc. But here’s the better question: How might we support women, children, and families so that they can thrive?
Why don’t we talk about how we offer better access to health care, child care, parental leave, and other support systems? Maybe we can put down our protest signs, have productive conversations, and take subsequent action that will make the lives of people better. We can get there in a lot of different ways, but we are not going to get there simply by protesting for your preferred legislation.
I’m staunchly pro-choice, but I would welcome this conversation with pro-life supporters all day long.
Again, blame it on my journalism training, but I love to reframe questions so that we are having better, more productive conversations. Take my next retreat, Reinventing Ritual, for instance. On this journey, each participant will ask themselves three primary questions, with a holiday, personal, work, or family ritual in mind:
- Why do we do this ritual in the first place?
- What is meaningful about our ritual?
- How might we reinvent ritual in light of COVID-19 restrictions that maintains — or even enhances — the core purpose and meaning of the ritual?
Ready to refresh YOUR rituals? My online retreat begins on Thursday, October 22. Learn more and register here to refresh your own rituals.
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