Book Rec: Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling by Edgar Schein

I’m a smoosher. I steal this term from Emilie Wapnick, who created the term “multipotentialite” and founded puttylike.com. Basically, I take two ideas and smoosh them together to see what happens. I like to see what emerges when to previously unrelated concepts collide. So one of my go-to practices is smooshing stuff together.

One of the best multi-purpose smooshables I’ve seen is Humble Inquiry. It’s a method of communication that calls for asking sincere, non-leading questions and then being truly open to what you’ll hear back. HUMBLE INQUIRY IS MAGIC, YOU GUYS. IT IS MY HAMMER AND ALL THE WORLD IS A NAIL.

Edgar Schein wrote the book (this is not an affiliate link, it’s just a regular link to Amazon).  It’s aimed at business types, but it works anywhere. Talking to the husbeast? Humble Inquiry. Talking to a friend about her troubles? Humble Inquiry. Want to get to know a stranger. BAM. Humble Inquiry.The

The cool thing about Humble Inquiry is that it opens windows into the minds of other people. If you’re not angling for something or expecting something, you get the chance to be appropriately delighted, surprised, or responsive to what actually comes out of the other person’s mouth (or hands, if they’re signing.)

And you can smoosh Humble Inquiry with anything:

  1. Permaculture Workshop PLUS Humble Inquiry = very yes
  2. Conversation with politically different but pleasant uncle PLUS Humble Inquiry = Thanksgiving doesn’t end in tears
  3. Business meeting PLUS Humble Inquiry = a meeting in which you both understand the needs of the organization and how you can help

The options are endless, but you get the idea.

I definitely recommend the book, but you can practice Humble Inquiry anywhere you go by using the following two steps:

  1. Ask a question that doesn’t angle for a specific reply
  2. Listen carefully to what you hear

MAGIC, PEOPLE.