Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Blueberries, Pick-Up Trucks and Building Relationships

About much more than blueberries!Celeste Bumpus is a speaker, trainer, consultant and president of Creating Balance Seminars. She wrote a guide to eating smart, entitled, Are the Blueberries in Your Waffles Really Blueberries? That is an ear-catching title, isn’t it? I found out not long ago that Celeste had another title in mind–a title that accurately described the focus of the book. A perfectly fine title. The question about blueberries was actually the first line on the back of the book:

“Are the blueberries in your waffles really blueberries?
Are fat free products truly fat free? What’s better, low carb or low fat food?”

Celeste noticed that those she asked to look at her draft copy would look at the front cover without making a comment, turn the book over and read the first line on the back cover, and immediately stop and ask, “Are the blueberries in my waffles really blueberries?” That question attracted so much interest that Celeste knew she needed to change the title of her book! The book is about much more than that (although it does answer that question!) but the question changes her from a knowledgeable person (a good thing) to a personal consultant (a great thing!)

That ties into the advice I once read that the best way to title the chapters of a self-help book is to pose questions which are then answered by the material in each chapter. When the material is brought into the world of the reader through a question, the reader enters the world of the book to get the answer. You can think about that concept when you talk to people–what will take you into their world and bring them into yours?

Years ago I was teaching an In-Service training class at the Denver Police Department Academy, located at the time near one of the city parks. I was in the hallway at break time when one of the participants walked up to another one–someone who rarely spoke and often seemed disinterested–and asked, “What year is your truck?” The officer’s face brightened immediately and he replied that it was almost ten years old, but in great condition. He said he often towed a boat with it and had become the official mover for his whole family–but still, it was comfortable for riding, and he and his wife had gone on a long road trip a few months earlier and enjoyed every minute of it. He concluded by asking, “Are you thinking about getting a truck?” The other officer who had stood there, almost in a daze from the verbal volley by this otherwise morose appearing officer, said, “No. I just was trying to figure out whose truck it was that got a window broken from a golf ball.”

It turned out the broken window was on someone else’s truck, and after the hoopla the officer came back inside, resumed his place in class and once again seemed disinterested. But, for those few moments I was able to see what he was like when he was enthusiastic! Apparently that question gave him a reason to talk that had been lacking before. (I could also use that situation to point out how much more impressive we are when we show enthusiasm.)

I do not suggest that you develop a list of questions to insincerely bring out the interest and enthusiasm of others in a manipulative way. However, it may be helpful for you to remember that one appropriate and effective question can be more mentally engaging than dozens of statements.

Do you have tried and true questions you use in counseling, training, meetings or even social settings, that seem to encourage people to share thoughts or to be more open to your ideas? Let me know about them! (See? I closed with a question, so you would be more likely to respond. Don’t let me down!)

April 27th, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 8 comments