How to CONNECT: The Power in Scaffolded Questions

What does connecting mean?

When my Nana would look at me and say “Everything you touch turns to gold”, and “Everything in here (pointing to her brain) can be out there,” it wasn’t so much the words. It was the inflection in her voice, and it was the fact that she had previously asked me many questions.

When someone asks you a question, the implied message is, “I want to know what you think.”

When my Nana made those two bold affirming statements to me, it was coming from someone who usually asked me questions. This brought more meaning to the affirmations.

When we think of connecting, we often think of:

  • Communicating with others
  • Building relationships with others

While these are certainly valid examples, I’d like you to think of the following examples:

  • Communicating with yourself
  • Empowering yourself
  • Empowering others
  • Empowering others to empower others

How can we make those happen consistently and with a sense of authentic inspiration? My experience and my interactions with my mentors has shown me that this happens best when we use scaffolded questions.

Here’s an example! Recently, I was leading a classroom filled with high school students from Tucson, AZ and Nogales, Mexico. It was a language exchange program and simultaneously an intergenerational experience with at least four generations present in the room. Some would say that the following barriers existed:

  • Generational
  • Language
  • Cultural

My task was how to start this initial conversation. I chose to scaffold a set of questions as follows:

  • Does pineapple belong on pizza? (The room exploded with dialogue, both humorous and fierce)
  • Introduce yourself and share your favorite food.
  • Ask someone at the table who does not speak your language, how to say a word or phrase in their language?

The next time they meet, the questions will continue with questions like:

  • What is something funny which has happened to you?
  • What is something triumphant which has happened to you?
  • What is one of your aspirations?
  • If you could tell one story and share it with the world, what would it be?

When we take the time to scaffold the questions we use with any group or individual, we have a much better chance of creating invitations to learn, grow, and create.

The opposite of this would be:

  • Repeating the same questions over and over again.
  • Not using any questions which are light-hearted and fun.
  • Skipping to profound questions without creating relationships first.

Be intentional with the kinds of questions you ask and how you position them.



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