Tag Archives: questions

Check him out!

Who is a wise man? He who learns from all men. — The Talmud

A friend sent along a Christian Science Monitor article on Living Libraries that I want to also share with you,  http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0605/p01s02-wogn.html.

From CS Monitor -- A Living Library

From CS Monitor -- A Living Library

Here’s the premise – go to your local public library on a specific date and, instead of checking out a book, you are able to “borrow” a type of person about which you’d like to learn more. Curious about the Islamic tradition, being a fireman or what an undertaker does? Just sign up to spend a bit of time asking all questions you might have been previously embarrassed or fear to ask. A Living Library creates an opportunity for us to investigate the truth behind stereotypes and expand our perspectives.

Yet, could we not also bring this model into our every day lives? I propose describing the living library concept to another and following with the question, “Might I borrow you for a ½ hour?” I know I would be honored to be given the opportunity to dispel myths or clarify beliefs that another might hold about me, wouldn’t you? 

Hope you enjoy this article and find rich opportunities to “check out” someone who might pique your curiosity!



Where are we?

Last weekend I added another way to describe the importance of seeking another’s perspective when you find disagreement. Being a soccer parent in Montana has its challenges. When your children “travel,” you don’t head across town as do my friends in Minneapolis or Washington, DC, instead you hit the road at 5 am to drive across the state. The older the kid, the farther you must venture and the earlier in the year they start playing. Thus, the season began in earnest on Saturday for our teenaged daughter with games scheduled in Billings, about 2 ½ hours east.

April 4, 2009

April 4, 2009

Yet between Friday and Saturday morning we received about 18 inches of snow in our neighborhood outside of Bozeman. It drifted across the roads and without a snowplow, I wasn’t going to make it out of my driveway.  There was also a winter storm alert for our destination. Games had been cancelled all over the state. So, the three fellow soccer team families in our neighborhood decided at midnight to forgo 4 AM snow blowing and possible dangerous driving conditions since it seemed impossible that the games wouldn’t be cancelled. There are limits.

We awoke the next morning to even more snow and emails that the games were scheduled as planned! Weather.com continued to report winter storm alerts and the transportation department tough road conditions, yet all the other team members were on their way to Billings. How could that be?

This situation then began to remind me of watching a mediation. There’s usually a time during a dispute where one party insinuates that the other must be a little crazy or irresponsible. But for a mediator, this moment should be a sign that everyone might be missing critical information.

Thankfully, after shaking my head in disbelief, I recognized I must be missing something. After making some calls, I learned that downtown Bozeman had received a few inches not feet of snow and the farther east you drove the less white stuff you’d see. Ringing a friend already cheering on the sidelines, I learned that the fields were completely dry. “Winter storm alert” in Billings meant only cloudy skies, not dumping two feet as it did south of Bozeman. The same term was used for both cities with very different results. From our winter wonderland it had seemed impossible that there would be relatively warm and dry weather 60 miles away until I spoke with someone who had just made the journey.

After my faithful spouse dug us out, the girls and I headed east to make a second game. Arriving at the fields, it was my turn to explain to the other soccer parents why our late arrival had not been…well, lazy or irresponsible! With a dusting of snow on their vehicles before leaving, they were as confused that we hadn’t made the trip as I had been that they had. From Billings we had seemed a bit crazy…just as they seemed from home!

I now hope to mumble, “they must be in Billings” when I reach that tough spot in a mediation when perspectives diverge, or in my own disputes, so I will ask more clarifying questions. I’m guessing those who know Billings, Bozeman, or Butte for that matter, are smiling as they read this since these towns sport not only unique ecosystems, but also very distinctive, and sometimes opposing, personalities…yet, don’t we all?

Powerful questions

Lately, I have been thinking that conversations work like doors. Sometimes conversations are “open” and through them we can see new possibilities. Other times you can feel a discussion closing down, locking out new information or diverse viewpoints.

Powerful questions have a great habit of re-opening constricted conversations. This week I ran across a short video from Thailand that asks two intriguing questions:  

  • What you are responsible for? 
  • What is your commitment?


Asking myself these questions has a centering effect when in stressful situations. They open my internal doorways. The two questions help me clarify what I can control and my appropriate next steps; I pause (a good thing in conflict) as I consider, “OK, what really am I responsible for in this situation?” and “What are my highest commitments?” And, as seen in the video, asking others can transform someone you believe you know well into a fascinating stranger. 

 I invite you to give them a try and welcome your insights!