A question of relationships

A candidate of ours had a round of interviews last week that included a meeting with the CEO of the corporation. The candidate failed to ask the CEO a single question. Our client is not moving forward with this candidate.

This got me thinking about the role of questioning in all kinds of situations. On a global level we often find ourselves asking questions that have no answers. This can be disconcerting in these post-modern times that we live in.

In building relationships asking questions is a way we express our interest and curiosity about the other – that builds intimacy. We can assume we know what the other person means but in the absence of finding out with our questions we often remain distant.

I suspect we’ve all had the experience of being in a conversation where the other person doesn’t ask one question about you – the conversation often ends up one-sided and less than intimate. It is in the questioning that we experience the other’s interest in building the relationship.

In an interview both parties need to be active participants, creating conversation and thereby building a relationship. We can forget the human element – as though the CEO wouldn’t have some of the same responses that all of us have if there is no curiosity about us.

In an improvisational scene we limit questions and, instead, we make statements. A good improviser is creating a “yes and” scene by making “offers”, adding details, and endowing each other with certain qualities. Instead of asking, “How do you feel this morning?” I might say,”Wow, you are so grumpy this morning!”. A response might be, “Yes I am grumpy because you left a sink full of dishes in the sink.” And so the relationship gets built.

What matters, ultimately, is our attention to relationship – with an interviewer or interviewee, a new friend, an improv partner or a loved one. We are, indeed, a relational species.