INQUIRE – learning the ‘art’ of asking some questions. This sets apart the great discussion leaders from the average ones. Even if you are brilliant at working through the suggestions in the previous three posts: Involvement, Introductions and information – that would just build a platform.
And in order to build on that platform you need to develop this essential skill for a fruitful small group discussion – the skill of asking questions. Some are very native to this skill and seem to have been born with it. But the vast majority of people learn it over time and practice.
The key players in the question game are you (asking) and your group (responding). Here are some of my tips for getting the most out of this process:
- Readiness – As I suggested before doing your homework in both understanding the questions provided and ‘owning’ them will be very useful. Maybe you can even re-write or add a few of your own.
- Relax – A good sense of warm familiarity will help to make people like they can attempt to answer without fear of being laughed at or corrected. You need to know who your crew are and what they are comfortable with. You can draw some introverts gently into conversation but don’t force them.
- Relate – As people share emphasise the common nature of their experience, maybe at times even illustrating how you might feel the same excitement/frustration. That will make them feel less vulnerable and more ‘normal’.
- Repeat – sometimes people either do not understand the question or they need time to ponder it and repeating it in a slightly altered way might do the trick and avoid the kind of silence that might make people self-conscious (i.e. ‘boy we are a thick group’).
- Referee – as you are in charge of the discussion, you need to use both your discernment and your courage to make sure that people don’t monopolize the room or feel too intimidated to speak. Again, knowing people is a great plus. You can easily draw them in by mentioning something they have experienced/they are passionate about. How you handle the extremes will set the tone for the group atmosphere.