I’m continuing a series of good questions–questions I’ve used in coaching others, and some which I’m learning to use for the first time. (You can read Part 1 here.) These are not only helpful in coaching; they’re helpful in any conversation or relationship building. This question is one of discovery (learning about the other person), but it quickly leads to introspection and self-learning. And it’s especially helpful in getting past relational awkwardness when there’s an elephant in the room.
Ask This Question
“What is your before-and-after story?”
Everybody has a before-and-after story. In fact, everybody has several. If I ask you that question, where do you naturally go? What’s first on your list?
I’d heard that question a couple of weeks ago, and I’d been waiting to ask it to someone. Last week, on an airplane, I had my opportunity. When they were loading the wheelchair-bound young lady into the seat beside me I had been self-absorbed. I was reading something and had been generally ignoring the mayhem that happens when passengers are boarding. I finally notice the young lady in the seat next to me, and I apologized for having been in my own little world. She was amiable and jocular, so we hit it off.
Don’t Ignore the Obvious
After a few minutes I got to it. “I’m not going to ignore the obvious. What’s your ‘before-and-after’ story”? She had no trouble telling me that she’d been in that wheelchair for the last 20 years–since the age of six–because of an automobile accident. It led to a great discussion on matters of faith (she’s a believer), attitude, and perspective. More questions. “What’s it like?” “What do you get tired of being asked?” “What do you wish you were asked?”
Of course, it wasn’t a one-way street. She felt free enough to fire more and more questions my way as we got to know each other. We had lots of laughs, and we departed in friendship. It all began with a question we can routinely use. “What’s your before-and-after story?”
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