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Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling

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The Key to Effective Communication Communication is essential in a healthy organization. But all too often when we interact with people—especially those who report to us—we simply tell them what we think they need to know. This shuts them down. To generate bold new ideas, to avoid disastrous mistakes, to develop agility and flexibility, we need to practice Humble Inquiry. Ed The Key to Effective Communication Communication is essential in a healthy organization. But all too often when we interact with people—especially those who report to us—we simply tell them what we think they need to know. This shuts them down. To generate bold new ideas, to avoid disastrous mistakes, to develop agility and flexibility, we need to practice Humble Inquiry. Ed Schein defines Humble Inquiry as “the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.” In this seminal work, Schein contrasts Humble Inquiry with other kinds of inquiry, shows the benefits Humble Inquiry provides in many different settings, and offers advice on overcoming the cultural, organizational, and psychological barriers that keep us from practicing it.


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The Key to Effective Communication Communication is essential in a healthy organization. But all too often when we interact with people—especially those who report to us—we simply tell them what we think they need to know. This shuts them down. To generate bold new ideas, to avoid disastrous mistakes, to develop agility and flexibility, we need to practice Humble Inquiry. Ed The Key to Effective Communication Communication is essential in a healthy organization. But all too often when we interact with people—especially those who report to us—we simply tell them what we think they need to know. This shuts them down. To generate bold new ideas, to avoid disastrous mistakes, to develop agility and flexibility, we need to practice Humble Inquiry. Ed Schein defines Humble Inquiry as “the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.” In this seminal work, Schein contrasts Humble Inquiry with other kinds of inquiry, shows the benefits Humble Inquiry provides in many different settings, and offers advice on overcoming the cultural, organizational, and psychological barriers that keep us from practicing it.

30 review for Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling

  1. 4 out of 5

    Philippe

    I am getting more and more convinced that big, systemic change takes root in conscious but modest shifts in behaviour and thought. The argument developed in this short book confirms this: asking the right questions, from an authentic attitude of respect and curiosity, is the basis for building trusting relationships; trust facilitates better task-related communication and, thereby, ensures collaboration to get the job done. Humble Inquiry is particularly important given that organisations and co I am getting more and more convinced that big, systemic change takes root in conscious but modest shifts in behaviour and thought. The argument developed in this short book confirms this: asking the right questions, from an authentic attitude of respect and curiosity, is the basis for building trusting relationships; trust facilitates better task-related communication and, thereby, ensures collaboration to get the job done. Humble Inquiry is particularly important given that organisations and communities find themselves drifting towards handling complex interdependent tasks that cannot be accomplished by solitary experts. The idea behind Humble Inquiry is simple enough but its practice is fraught with difficulties. Our culture of task-orientedness and one-upmanship steers us away from an humble stance in organisational and community life. In multi-cultural groups or in teams where there are socially encoded status differences it requires genuine sensitivity to put Humble Inquiry into practice without upsetting people. Also we need to be mindful of the way we project ourselves to the outside world. Perceptual biases and the variety of conscious and unconscious signals that play out in interpersonal communication can easily put us on the wrong foot when it comes to building trust. Here I found Schein’s distinction between Humble Inquiry, diagnostic inquiry, confrontational inquiry and process-oriented inquiry to be very helpful. In my personal communication style I tend to gravitate quickly to a form of diagnostic inquiry. Schein assures me that this can work as Humble Inquiry as long as I’m mindful of the specific context in which I’m asking the questions and the state of the relationship with my interlocutor. Even confrontational questions can be humble if the motive is to be genuinely helpful and the relationship has enough trust built up to allow the other to be feel helped rather than confronted. Recognising these situational cues is easier said than done. A successful practice of Humble Inquiry requires us to slow down, observe carefully and take stock of the situation we find ourselves in. Here Schein briefly connects to Ellen Langer’s work on mindfulness. He also suggests to cultivate a creative habit to discipline ourselves in creating something new that is not ego expanding. I wish there were more of these kinds of books: to the point, succinct, accessible, conceptually rich and practical. Not a book to put back on the shelves but to keep in our satchel for constant reference and validation.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Richard Newton

    I rather liked this little book. I've been a fan of Schein's thinking for a long time, since I was first introduced to his ideas on Process Consulting when I was a junior management consultant, (I know, we all have things in our pasts that are embarrassing!). This is a very easy read with deceptively simple advice, but summarises decades of experience on what really brings people and teams together, and what avoids the significant problems that result from a failure of people to effectively comm I rather liked this little book. I've been a fan of Schein's thinking for a long time, since I was first introduced to his ideas on Process Consulting when I was a junior management consultant, (I know, we all have things in our pasts that are embarrassing!). This is a very easy read with deceptively simple advice, but summarises decades of experience on what really brings people and teams together, and what avoids the significant problems that result from a failure of people to effectively communicate. It is aimed at the American market, and most of the examples are about the way Americans tend to interact. It is particularly good in explaining how individualism and the competitive spirit can get in the way of effective communications. But before others get too self-assured that the problems explained here are unique to the USA, its worth a little humility and willingness to be open to the ideas. They are simple, but profound and I suspect universally applicable.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ajit Kumar

    I have finished reading first four chapters. Really impressive and practical. As rightly pointed out in the book, we are accustomed to the culture of telling. Teamwork based on Inquiry -- specifically, Humble Inquiry, is difficult, but well worth the effort, especially if you're in a leadership position. Update: I completed reading it. Really impressive, though I feel that some of the later chapters are repetition of what is mentioned in the first few chapters. Nevertheless, it serves and import I have finished reading first four chapters. Really impressive and practical. As rightly pointed out in the book, we are accustomed to the culture of telling. Teamwork based on Inquiry -- specifically, Humble Inquiry, is difficult, but well worth the effort, especially if you're in a leadership position. Update: I completed reading it. Really impressive, though I feel that some of the later chapters are repetition of what is mentioned in the first few chapters. Nevertheless, it serves and important purpose -- makes you think on the theme convincingly, and gives ideas on implementing it. In the last chapter, the author writes about Developing the Attitude of Humble Inquiry. He says, the skills of Humble Inquiry is needed in three broad domains: 1) Personal life, to enable dealing with increasing culture diversity; 2) Organizations, to identify needs for collaboration among interdependent work units and to facilitate such collaboration; and 3) Role as leader or manager, to create the relationships and the climate to promote open communication needed for effective task performance. These, in my view summarizes the purpose of the book, There are quite a few gems which need to be thought and learnt. Some of the few which I liked are: ".. my teaching and consulting experience has taught me that what builds a relationship, what solves problems, what moves things forward is asking the right questions." "If I don't care about communicating or building a relationship with the other person, then telling is fine. But if part of the goal of the conversation is to improve communication and build a relationship, then telling is more risky and asking." "...there is growing evidence that many tasks get accomplished better and more safely if team members and especially bosses learn to build relationships through the art of Humble Inquiry." "As the quality of communication increases, the task is accomplished better. ....Humble Inquiry is not a checklist to follow or a set of prewritten questions -- it is behavior that comes out of respect, genuine curiosity, and the desire to improve the quality of the conversation by stimulating greater openness and the sharing of task relevant information." "Humble Inquiry starts with the attitude and is then supported by our choice of questions. ... We have to learn that diagnostic and confrontational questions come very naturally and easily, just as telling comes naturally and easily. It takes some discipline and practice to access one's ignorance, to stay focused on the other person." "Consider how much of the work done in today's technologically complex world cannot be done by the leader;hence the leader must learn to live with Here-and-now Humility." "It will be easy for the subordinate to continue to be humble and ask for the help of the superior. The dilemma that will require new learning is how the superior can learn to ask for help from the subordinate." "We may not remember someone's name, but our greeting and our demeanor tells the other person that we acknowledge them. ... Society is based on a minimum amount of this kind of taken-for-granted trust. We trust that we will be acknowledged as fellow humans and that our presented self will be affirmed." "If we want to build a relationship with someone and open up communication channels, we have to avoid operating on incorrect data as much as we can. Checking things out by asking in a humble manner then becomes a core activity in relationship building." "Learning Humble Inquiry is not learning how to run faster but how to slow down in order to make sure that I have observed carefully and taken full stock of situational reality." "In our task oriented impatient culture of Do and Tell, the most important thing to learn is how to reflect." "Humble Inquiry presumes accurate assessment of the situation, so asking ourselves what else is happening is essential. Paradoxically, it involves learning to be humble with respect to ourselves -- to honor our human capacity to take in and deal with complexity, to have a broad range of experiences, and to be agile in responding to those experiences." "Doing something artistic expands mind and body. It is not about whether it is any good or not; it is about trying something really new that is ego expanding." "There is growing acknowledgement that organizations perform better when the employees in various departments recognize their degree of interdependence and actively coordinate and collaborate with each other." "Slowing down, reflecting, becoming more mindful, accessing the artist within you, and engaging in more process reviews -- all will lead to a clearer recognition of what the needs for coordination and collaboration are in your work situation." And, finally the concluding comment from the book. "All of us find ourselves from time to time in situations that require innovation and some risk taking. Some of us are formal leaders; most of us just have leadership thrust upon us from time to time by the situations we find ourselves in. The ultimate challenge is for you to discover that at those moments you should not succumb to telling, but to take charge with Humble Inquiry." As I conclude reading the book and reflect on its contents, I remember one of my earlier bosses, who was a master in the art of Humble Inquiry. He spent hours together to learn about a situation, inquiring with everyone possible to get a clear picture, especially things that involved complexity, before actually acting on a situation. Naturally, he was successful in leading the team with ease, though he did face a number of situations which he never knew anything about.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lê Phúc

    The idea is great and insightful. However, that could be easily covered by one chapter, not the whole book. The author repeat himself quite a lot.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jerry Jennings

    Relationships grow when people learn about and appreciate each other. I believe that many of us can benefit from being very intentional about reaching out and getting to know each other in our work places, communities and even families. Edgar H. Schein in his new book: Humble Inquiry: the Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling (2013) writes, “Why is it so important to learn to ask better questions that help to build positive relationships? Because in an increasingly complex, interdependent, and Relationships grow when people learn about and appreciate each other. I believe that many of us can benefit from being very intentional about reaching out and getting to know each other in our work places, communities and even families. Edgar H. Schein in his new book: Humble Inquiry: the Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling (2013) writes, “Why is it so important to learn to ask better questions that help to build positive relationships? Because in an increasingly complex, interdependent, and culturally diverse world, we cannot hope to understand and work with people from different occupational, professional, and national cultures if we do not know how to ask questions and build relationships that are based on mutual respect and the recognition that others know things that we may need to know in order to get a job done.” Schein states that not all questions are equivalent. He has come to believe that we need to learn a particular form of questioning that he first called “Humble Inquiry” in Edgar H. Schein’s earlier book, Helping (2009) and Humble Inquiry he defines as follows: “Humble Inquiry is the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.” Listening to understand and appreciate. That makes sense to me. I don’t think it is an easy thing to get good at and I also think it is worth getting good at! I believe that we and generations to come will benefit from co-creation of ideas, plans, solutions, and futures. Schein’s book, Humble Inquiry may help people to gain awareness and dispositions related to gentle and thoughtful probing as we getting to know those around us.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    Mish-mash of advice that can be found in many other books I’ve read so I found it boring. What the author says isn’t wrong (“be humble”) but I worry that he omits things that are based on more solid evidence than his anecdotal experiences. For instance, he talks a lot about OR teams. I think that the checklist approach, which he sort of pooh-poohs, makes a lot more sense than relying on all the staff in the hospital to get to know each other personally.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    The value of asking questions based in genuine curiosity and interest (rather than telling people what you think) in building relationships, particularly for the person with higher status in the relationship. The author was a business school professor and a consultant, and the work is addressed to leaders in various positions, the type of people he might have helped professionally. Also, I felt he was used to presenting his material to largely male audiences. Nonetheless, there are many insights The value of asking questions based in genuine curiosity and interest (rather than telling people what you think) in building relationships, particularly for the person with higher status in the relationship. The author was a business school professor and a consultant, and the work is addressed to leaders in various positions, the type of people he might have helped professionally. Also, I felt he was used to presenting his material to largely male audiences. Nonetheless, there are many insights for the ordinary person as well.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Shawna LeBlond

    I read this for a professional development seminar. It was really interesting and made me think about a lot of my interactions as a manager and as a coworker. I think a lot of time we do not want to find the root of the problem instead we want to offer a quick fix solution, but without addressing underlying issues the problems will continue to arise. I thought this book provided a lot of great insight on how to effectively use questioning communication as a form of building trusting relationship I read this for a professional development seminar. It was really interesting and made me think about a lot of my interactions as a manager and as a coworker. I think a lot of time we do not want to find the root of the problem instead we want to offer a quick fix solution, but without addressing underlying issues the problems will continue to arise. I thought this book provided a lot of great insight on how to effectively use questioning communication as a form of building trusting relationships.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kristian Norling

    How to be curious and humbly ask questions. A very humanistic approach on how to treat others, that also points to the need to show others that you are vulnerable, in order to build trust. Ends with a great chapter on how to develop an attitude of humble inquiry. A short, concise and recommended read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ralf Kruse

    It's impressive on how the right type of inquiry can make such a difference. Really enjoyed reading it. So much great insights on so many levels.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Shevon Quijano

    Edgar H. Schein encourages leaders to “...create the climate that gives permission for the help to be given” as expressed by “drawing someone out [and] asking questions to which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.” I absolutely loved his idea that I need to “access my ignorance” in order to lead conversations and decisions. So often leaders think that they need to pretend to know everything when they can achieve much Edgar H. Schein encourages leaders to “...create the climate that gives permission for the help to be given” as expressed by “drawing someone out [and] asking questions to which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.” I absolutely loved his idea that I need to “access my ignorance” in order to lead conversations and decisions. So often leaders think that they need to pretend to know everything when they can achieve much more by being humble and asking about things they don’t know. Schein also explores how our society traditionally expects workplace relationships to be task-oriented meaning that the only interactions and communications should revolve around a shared work related goal and no more. He suggests that having a person-oriented relationship is much more productive because when you share a a certain degree of personalization you work even better as a team. This makes total sense. Why do we insist that you can’t be effective in work and also have a healthy social relationship with the same person? With how much globalization is occurring we all need to be intentional with genuinely learning about other people. This in turn will build trust and facilitate more honest communication.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Helena

    Simple yet powerful message - and several questions that I will try on in my own life.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ralf Kruse

    I read the book years ago. In the first round I struggled to get some of the key aspects of the book. The view on here-and-now humility and the perspective on how humble inquiries can change your own perspective, the perspective of others and whole systems struck me, when I re-read it recently.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jules

    Another great entry from Schein, who has cornered the market on demystifying human relations, especially in organizations. How do you cultivate a relationship in which information can be shared, based on genuine interest and respect? A great companion to reading on building trust and psychological safety.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    Reasonable approach to mindful interactions in personal and professional life, pulling on a number of other threads: psychology, organizational behavior, culture, and popular literature. It meanders (but not delightfully) and the core message could be well-delivered as a long essay.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Pedro Limeira

    Even though I think the way of dealing with others proposed on this book goes way beyond any kind of method or directions, I really liked to see the picture it draws of the culture that is all around us. The task-oriented culture implies a lack of attention to relationship issues, and that, in turn, ends up dampening the task accomplishment. Another thing that got my attention was the fact that we tend to act strategically when facing situations that might put our knowledge to proof. Why would I Even though I think the way of dealing with others proposed on this book goes way beyond any kind of method or directions, I really liked to see the picture it draws of the culture that is all around us. The task-oriented culture implies a lack of attention to relationship issues, and that, in turn, ends up dampening the task accomplishment. Another thing that got my attention was the fact that we tend to act strategically when facing situations that might put our knowledge to proof. Why would I show signs of not knowing something to a subordinate/superior and therefore show that I am not worth of my position? Hidden assumptions as those shape our behavior uncounsciously and, in the end, make our lives not as good as they could be; instead of a trusting and stress-free environment, we are building collectively huge energy drains. The humble inquiry stance is based on genuine interest in the other human being that is in front of me. It requires lots of self-knowledge work, since we need to be aware of our conditionings built from past experiences to be open to the differences. This book is a great way to start or to get reminded about that, and, for me, that is its value.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Naomi

    In my workplace, we often speak of putting on our humility pants. The reality is that sometimes we are so wrapped up in what we need to accomplish, we miss each other, or do something stupid, or fail to ask the right and necessary questions. Figuratively putting on and announcing that we are putting on our humility pants signals a different intention, and makes the shift required a little easier, asking ourselves to be more mindful of what is and what is not and the limits of our knowing. Readin In my workplace, we often speak of putting on our humility pants. The reality is that sometimes we are so wrapped up in what we need to accomplish, we miss each other, or do something stupid, or fail to ask the right and necessary questions. Figuratively putting on and announcing that we are putting on our humility pants signals a different intention, and makes the shift required a little easier, asking ourselves to be more mindful of what is and what is not and the limits of our knowing. Reading Edgar Schein is itself an act of practicing humility, because of the insightful questions Schein asks us to consider, and the tough and yet joyful practices recommended. Edgar Schein's work invites us all into being more mindful and more creative as necessary parts of practicing humility, to live with curiosity and respect and with less assumption and negative judgment. I only wish I had met this book earlier in my life. Recommended for community and congregational leaders as well as the business managers the book means to reach.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

    This is a pretty short book that probes the art of asking questions that invite people into meaningful conversations with the express purpose of building authentic relationships. Practicing humble inquiry requires you to recognize and push beyond any biases or snap judgments that could lead you to make statements that shut down instead of open up conversations. The book only spends a brief time looking at the technique of humble inquiry because the concept is easy to grasp. Instead, it explores This is a pretty short book that probes the art of asking questions that invite people into meaningful conversations with the express purpose of building authentic relationships. Practicing humble inquiry requires you to recognize and push beyond any biases or snap judgments that could lead you to make statements that shut down instead of open up conversations. The book only spends a brief time looking at the technique of humble inquiry because the concept is easy to grasp. Instead, it explores the inhibitors that generally interfere with use of the technique. The sociocultural or behavioral psychology-related inhibitors are not explored in enough depth to be of benefit. So, if you want to understand the true impact of inhibitors like cultural cues, you will need to search out other material. Overall, I didn't learn anything new from this book but it was a good reminder for me of the ingrained habits that we need to fight against if we want to establish authentic relationships in the marketplace.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Shrutin

    Edgar takes up an increasingly complex topic and delves deep into it. More real-life and specific examples would have been welcome, considering it is quite a complicated topic, being based around human interactions. But that said, his understanding and respect of humility, awareness of the magnitude of the problem we face in a world that has become unconsciously attuned to either giving orders, or taking them; as opposed to interacting with others keeping them at the same level as us. While some de Edgar takes up an increasingly complex topic and delves deep into it. More real-life and specific examples would have been welcome, considering it is quite a complicated topic, being based around human interactions. But that said, his understanding and respect of humility, awareness of the magnitude of the problem we face in a world that has become unconsciously attuned to either giving orders, or taking them; as opposed to interacting with others keeping them at the same level as us. While some developed nations, at least on the surface, seem to have humility and use humble inquiry in their interactions, it would be interesting to see how it shapes out in developing countries, where a lot still operates on hierarchy and the mindless following of rules. In all, a good book and a useful reminder of how interdependent humans can achieve their best potential when working with others.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    The author sends a clear and singular message that mastering the art of a humble inquiry is the key to effective communication, but I am left with more questions than answers after having read this book. Are humble inquiries the best method in all scenarios? A variety of cases were presented (e.g., hierarchical, cultural) in which a humble inquiry could clarify or alleviate otherwise precarious dialogue, but I wondered how conversations in this manner could lead to solutions or actions without b The author sends a clear and singular message that mastering the art of a humble inquiry is the key to effective communication, but I am left with more questions than answers after having read this book. Are humble inquiries the best method in all scenarios? A variety of cases were presented (e.g., hierarchical, cultural) in which a humble inquiry could clarify or alleviate otherwise precarious dialogue, but I wondered how conversations in this manner could lead to solutions or actions without being diagnostic. The details seemed lacking. In the end, the "culmination and distillation of [Edgar Schein's] 50 years of work" seemed over-simplified for this reader.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jan Höglund

    Edgar H. Schein assumes that his readers are from the U.S. He refers, for example, to "our" task-oriented pragmatic culture throughout the book. And when discussing the main inhibitor of Humble Inquiry (Chapter 4) he only discusses the U.S. culture. This means that Schein addresses "the gentle art of asking instead of telling" from a rather narrow perspective. I'd also suggest to stop using the term "subordinates". It makes it much more difficult to move from telling to asking if we are still ta Edgar H. Schein assumes that his readers are from the U.S. He refers, for example, to "our" task-oriented pragmatic culture throughout the book. And when discussing the main inhibitor of Humble Inquiry (Chapter 4) he only discusses the U.S. culture. This means that Schein addresses "the gentle art of asking instead of telling" from a rather narrow perspective. I'd also suggest to stop using the term "subordinates". It makes it much more difficult to move from telling to asking if we are still talking subordination. Subordination is in itself an inhibitor to Humble Inquiry!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alan Marr

    This book is a very helpful reminder for those of us whose role in life is to listen. I read it because I was caught in a difficult conversation with a friend that became an argument and was getting nowhere until Jenny intercepted with a question that disarmed us both. I needed some revision. i like Edgar Schein so I read his book and it was extremely helpful. I am once again more conscious of the need to listen with humility to those who disagree with me. Will it last? Time will tell.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Olwen

    With just over a hundred pages, this is a slim volume, but very easy to read, and containing much valuable information about communication. Although it's targeting the business community, anyone seeking better communication with others could benefit from this book. The writing is excellent too - I'm looking forward to reading more of Schein's books.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    We are so accustomed to telling everyone what we know and what we did that we miss valuable opportunities to learn what we don't know from others. This book gives compelling reasons to think differently about how we communicate.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ignacio Ahumada

    nothing new, very few ideas. I would not recommend it to anyone. It should have stay as a chapter of another book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    V

    I have learned a ton from Dr. Schein's work over the years. This short, practical book presents a positive way to have deeper and more meaningful conversations - exactly what we need right now. Best. V Quotes: “Humble Inquiry is the skill and the art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.” “Most of my important lessons about life have come from recognizing how others from I have learned a ton from Dr. Schein's work over the years. This short, practical book presents a positive way to have deeper and more meaningful conversations - exactly what we need right now. Best. V Quotes: “Humble Inquiry is the skill and the art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.” “Most of my important lessons about life have come from recognizing how others from a different culture view things.” “Questions are taken for granted rather than given a starring role in the human drama. Yet all my teaching and consulting experience has taught me that what builds a relationship, what solves problems, what moves things forward is asking the right questions.” The world is becoming more technologically complex, interdependent, and culturally diverse, which makes the building of relationships more and more necessary to get things accomplished and, at the same time, more difficult. Relationships are the key to good communication; good communication is the key to successful task accomplishment; and Humble Inquiry, based on Here-and-now Humility, is the key to good relationships.” “Ultimately the purpose of Humble Inquiry is to build relationships that lead to trust which, in turn, leads to better communication and collaboration.” “What we choose to ask, when we ask, what our underlying attitude is as we ask—all are key to relationship building, to communication, and to task performance.” “Telling puts the other person down. It implies that the other person does not already know what I am telling and that the other person ought to know it.” Trust in the context of a conversation is believing that the other person will acknowledge me, not take advantage of me, not embarrass or humiliate me, tell me the truth, and, in the broader context, not cheat me, work on my behalf, and support the goals we have agreed to.” “The culture of Do and Tell does not teach us how to change pace, decelerate, take stock of what we are doing, observe ourselves and others, try new behaviors, build new relationships.” “Doctors engage patients in one-way conversations in which they ask only enough questions to make a diagnosis and sometimes make misdiagnoses because they don’t ask enough questions before they begin to tell patients what they should do.” “Beyond these general points about culture, why do specific aspects of the U.S. culture make Humble Inquiry more difficult? THE MAIN PROBLEM–A CULTURE THAT VALUES TASK ACCOMPLISHMENT MORE THAN RELATIONSHIP BUILDING.” “How does one produce a climate in which people will speak up, bring up information that is safety related, and even correct superiors or those of higher status when they are about to make a mistake?”

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    This book is a short read and a powerful read about effective communication. You can apply the guidance in this book to almost any personal relationship—your relationship with your kids, with your significant other, with your boss, or with your direct reports. Even with strangers you’ve just met. In the book, the author describes Humble Inquiry as: The fine art of drawing someone out, of asking a question to which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based curiosity and This book is a short read and a powerful read about effective communication. You can apply the guidance in this book to almost any personal relationship—your relationship with your kids, with your significant other, with your boss, or with your direct reports. Even with strangers you’ve just met. In the book, the author describes Humble Inquiry as: The fine art of drawing someone out, of asking a question to which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based curiosity and interest in the other person. For example, imagine I’m having a conversation with someone. That person tells me, “I want to lose weight.” I may respond with a statement like, “You should try running.” Or, I may ask a leading question like, “Have you thought of running?” These responses are not very effective. They put me in a controlling position and the other person in a subordinate position. A more effective way to communicate with this person would be via Humble Inquiry. If I respond with Humble Inquiry, I might ask something like, “What ideas do you have for losing weight?” By asking that question, I move the conversation forward while engaging the other person in a thoughtful, problem-solving process. The question helps me build a stronger relationship with the other person. And it will likely yield better results for that person, because people are usually more committed to their own ideas than to the ideas of others. This book helped me realize I’ve already been practicing Humble Inquiry in my professional life and in my personal life. I apply Humble Inquiry with my students when they come to me with challenges. I also apply it with family members and close friends. There are various insights throughout the book that resonated with me. For example, I learned the term “blind self”—what other people perceive about us that we don’t see in ourselves. These perceptions are often the subject of gossip and may never be revealed to us. I never knew there was a term for this. I plan to keep this book on my shelf. It’s one of those books I will probably re-read throughout the years so I can refresh my memory on how to communicate more effectively.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Will

    It is difficult and, to a degree, unnatural to be a decent person. Survival biases us towards selfishness, and every time we are faced by another’s thoughtlessness or selfishness it’s a chance to bring our own into the mix, even if it only manifests as a comeback several days later in the shower: “Nice appreciation of the social contract, bro!” Yes, we are monsters, and so we have books like Edgar Schein’s Humble Inquiry that seek to improve us, even if its purview is limited to “the gentle art It is difficult and, to a degree, unnatural to be a decent person. Survival biases us towards selfishness, and every time we are faced by another’s thoughtlessness or selfishness it’s a chance to bring our own into the mix, even if it only manifests as a comeback several days later in the shower: “Nice appreciation of the social contract, bro!” Yes, we are monsters, and so we have books like Edgar Schein’s Humble Inquiry that seek to improve us, even if its purview is limited to “the gentle art of asking instead of telling.” Schein’s Humble Inquiry is a process by which you engage and build a relationship of some sort with another person by nurturing a sense of curiosity, asking questions, and shutting up, i.e. really listening to what they have to say. It seems in a lot of ways to stem from mindfulness, that is to say short-circuiting any knee-jerk reactions we might have to the world around us to better understand situations and how to seek a more optimal outcome by way of being more present in the moment. And a lot of this is done by pausing when we feel the desire to tell something, and instead form questions that genuinely seek to draw out the other person while exhibiting both vulnerability in our ignorance and desire to learn more, hence the name humble inquiry. While this may sound as fertile ground for taking advantage of people, Schein is careful to point out that humble inquiry is grounded in earnest curiosity and is separate from leading and rhetorical questions. Schein goes a step further to imbue his advice with a certain moral imperative that this all be done with a real interest in other people, but I’d be remiss to ignore the possibility that in the hands of the charismatic this could be put to very wrong uses. Humble Inquiry gives a lot in such limited space, but it seems disjointed and a few edits could have helped. The real life examples that Schein gives are one-dimensional and the concentration of personal stories makes it feel weirdly fueled by remorse. Chapter 4, right in the middle of the book, launches into a discussion on cultural values and the incongruities between what is said to be valued and what our actions really support. It’s an interesting section and a rather acerbic view of modern life in America, but it’s something that would be better suited as an introduction for his material or used to give caution somewhere in the summation, given its scope varies so much from the book’s body of material. Humble Inquiry is a decent read but its brevity gives it the feel of an incomplete book, as though it were meant to be paired with a course on business psychology. If you can look past its flaws though you will find a worthwhile little book on how to better engage the people around you and make for a more communicative environment. It’s a little over 100 pages which is a small price to pay while on the road toward a more positive state of being, or at least temporarily deny the animalistic cruelties we inflict upon each other daily.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Eunhae Han

    May this be the mentality of all leaders -all of us. I would give it a higher review for its value if it was revelatory, but most of this communicates as common sense. We live in a world that is foolish and cruel where the least seems more than should be expected. Serving in diverse contexts overseas, locally, in the church and out, this mentality of seeking more to give than to manipulate for selfish gains is nearly absent in all my experiences of working with people. Not due to lack of desire May this be the mentality of all leaders -all of us. I would give it a higher review for its value if it was revelatory, but most of this communicates as common sense. We live in a world that is foolish and cruel where the least seems more than should be expected. Serving in diverse contexts overseas, locally, in the church and out, this mentality of seeking more to give than to manipulate for selfish gains is nearly absent in all my experiences of working with people. Not due to lack of desire to do the good intended in the work, but the inability to recognized set systems of oppression wrecking havoc in our hands. Every leader seriously needs to read this to see how contrary their structure is in sustaining such principles. I hope this book dismantles paradigms of leaders and to allow a different way of working with people to flourish. For more of an informational review of the book, skim the table of contents. haha.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ronaldo Ferraz

    This book in an examination of the need and practice of vulnerability in communication, especially in contexts where culture or hierarchy might limit openness. Humble inquiry, as described by the author, is the ability to listen and ask questions in an open, honest way that will create an environment for building relationships and increasing collaboration and trust as opposed to our usual desire to just tell people about our opinions or to exercise our power. I enjoyed the book and thought it pro This book in an examination of the need and practice of vulnerability in communication, especially in contexts where culture or hierarchy might limit openness. Humble inquiry, as described by the author, is the ability to listen and ask questions in an open, honest way that will create an environment for building relationships and increasing collaboration and trust as opposed to our usual desire to just tell people about our opinions or to exercise our power. I enjoyed the book and thought it provides a good set of principles for vulnerable communication and trust building. It would have benefit from more concrete examples, as many are too general or not detailed enough. Also, I didn't like some of the assumptions about cultures and, although the author was at pains to explain he was writing in the context of the US culture, some of it was a bit jarring. Overall, a good read.

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