Question Life

“My character in “Sensitive Skin” is asking lots of questions, trying to figure things out.  That place of ‘I don’t know’ makes her vulnerable,” said Kim Cattrall, contrasting this new character with other more cocksure characters she has played in the past.

If living in the question rather than the answer, not being sure about things, is the sign of vulnerability, then I know where I have always lived.

My habit in engaging people has always been in the question.

Most people think you create empathy by talking.  After someone shares an experience, they tell a story on the same topic, hoping to build bridges.  This is a tried and true conversational strategy.

I create empathy by listening.  I ask questions about the experience that was shared, trying both to understand the story in context — not what it means to me, but what it means to you — and working to help you understand your own story in a different way.   This is a tried and true therapeutic strategy.

The structure of the interview has always been central to me. How one can ask questions to tease out and amplify meaning?   How can my own curiosity lead me to growth and healing?

“You can’t teach that to people.  You can teach craft—you’ve got thirteen seconds till break, look at this camera—but you can’t teach curiosity.”
Andrew Lack speaking about Matt Lauer in Brian Selter’s Top Of The Morning

I don’t learn anything by imposing my own meaning on what someone else shares with me.   I only gain insight when I get inside of their experience, engage their different view of our shared world, and then let the commonalities develop inside of me.

A glib retelling of one of my stories that has what I see as a similar theme doesn’t reach out with empathy, rather it just pulls the conversation back to me.

Vulnerability requires living beyond certainty, being willing to be engaged, touched and enlightened by what others choose to share with you.   The question is always the tool we have to use to find connection, not the quip.

For many people, though, they don’t even know how to listen to their own hearts, how to be open to the moments of their own life.   They put up walls to keep them comfortable, walls to resist any demand for transformation and change.  If they do that, how can I ever expect them to open to me, to ask real questions that might lead to surprising and revelatory answers?

Vulnerability is the product of an open heart, an open mind and an open spirit.

In my experience, that does require living in the question.