This morning I went in for my semi-annual dental cleaning. As the dentist was talking over my dental history, he asked me a question that had much further implications than simply my oral hygiene:
“What’s bothering you?”
Of course, he could have asked me, “Does anything hurt?” or “Do you floss daily?” but my dentist is a smart man. He knew that to get an accurate answer he had to ask the right type of question. In our culture, we’ve become complacent about asking questions that elicit safe answers.
“How’s it going?” “How’s work been?” “How are you today?”
None of these are bad questions — unless you’re looking for an honest answer. Here’s the thing: no healthy relationship survives with these questions alone. How many successful friendships do you have where the only thing you ask each other is, “Hey, how’s it going?” Or what about the healthy marriages that solely rely on, “How was your day?”
Successful relationships, both personal and professional, require asking difficult questions.
Personally, I love the question that my dentist asked, because it doesn’t allow room for safe answers like “good” or “fine.” It makes us take a deep breath, look around, and face the tough reality around us.
So, let me pose a question for you …
What’s bothering you?