Can asking a question be an effective use of communication? Not only can a question be a useful tool for communication, but the power of the question will also empower girls. I am going to tell you why I’m so passionate about using the power of the question when I am not only empowering my daughters but the girls at my camp.
You see, I use this tool when speaking to those I mentor, those that work for me, those I am teaching, and those I am learning from and working with. Asking a question levels the playing field, disarms defense mechanisms and opens people to not only hear you but to listen. It also makes the person being asked feel important, worthy of attention and usually open to sharing.
Empowering Our Girls
At Camp Lantern Creek, we strive to teach independence, leadership and creative thought to girls of all ages, and there is not a better way to do all of this than by asking questions. When I am training my young adult staff at Camp Lantern Creek, I try to teach these amazing young women to be open to different personalities, learning styles and strengths and weaknesses with the campers and other staff they are working with.
Working at summer camp is one of the most rewarding jobs but also one of the hardest jobs a young adult can have. It’s 24 hours a day, and your camp director pushes you to be “on” or “happy” all the time! Is this even possible? Now there’s a good question! Your temperament will surely be tested. I train my staff to use the question as a tool to use to dispel conflict, concern or trouble.
The Power of the Question
The power of the question was revealed to me in the 80’s by an author named Dr. David Elkind, in his book, “Miseducation.” He tells this story of his 6-year-old son and himself, which I am going to say to you to show you the power of the question.
One day my son came home from school and asked me a question. “Dad, what is sex?” Shocked, I think to myself, well I knew this day would come, but I didn’t think it would come so soon and at such a young age. I begin to have “the talk” with my young son and while I am doing this, I am careful to pick appropriate words for a 6-year-old. When I am finished, my son looks very confused, so I ask him, “Do you understand? Do you have any questions?” My now, not so innocent son, looks at me and says, “I understand, but I still don’t get what I put when the paper says..SEX M F?”
Had Dr. Elkind stopped to see where his son was coming from, what specific information he needed or wanted, what led him to ask such an enormous question at such a young age, the conversation would have been so much simpler and age appropriate. That is the power of the question.
That story has stuck with me as a parent and as a camp director. Not just working with young children, but also working with young adults and helping them to navigate new schools, colleges, jobs and careers. Questions create a conversation that is not accusatory or demeaning. If a question is sincere, it is like opening the door to a discussion. When you ask a genuine question, there should be no judgment, but rather an opportunity for understanding.
Why does the question have the power to empower girls?
In general, we are emotional beings and the question can allow us to express interest, look for understanding and create a dialog. When a child comes to me with a problem, whether in a social or an academic situation, my first question is “What are your options?” Allowing them to use their talents, perspective and knowledge to problem solve will build those leadership and creative thinking skills that are so vital. This is a valuable and empowering interaction, as opposed to if I had used my experience to solve the problem or answer their question for them.
When I am working with my staff, I use the same technique and teach them to do it as well. I want my team and campers to grow as much as I want my children to. In their way, on their schedule. Since I run an all girls camp, I see the power this instills in girls and young women to ask for more information, don’t assume anything and, most importantly, don’t act like you know all the information. Admitting you don’t have the solution simply allows for growth and understanding.
Let’s empower girls by using the power of the question, and if you already do this, tell us how it has impacted your conversations with your girls in your life and work!