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A reading suggestion by an Agile Coach, Humble Enquiry is a small book of 120 or so pages with a lot of insights for professional as well as personal life!

The author has used a very simple language to explain the simple concept which can make a huge difference to how you deal with people and situations around you! Applies a lot to people in managerial roles. Additionally,  there are very real life examples like a wife asking a husband for a dinner when he is really busy at work and various ways he could have reacted to it!

He defines Humble Enquiry as:

“Humble Inquiry is the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.”

Referring to the society where task accomplishments are more important than building relationships, subordinate does more asking than telling and the manager does more telling than asking. We tend to think that asking is a sign of ignorance and weakness and do not realise that task can be accomplished better and safely if the managers try to build a relationship using the art of humble enquiry. In the author’s words: “This enquiry is derived from an attitude of interest and curiosity.”

And, again in his words:

“Don’t we all know how to ask questions? Of course we think we know how to ask, but we fail to notice how often even our questions are just another form of telling—rhetorical or just testing whether what we think is right. We are biased toward telling instead of asking because we live in a pragmatic, problem-solving culture in which knowing things and telling others what we know is valued.”

There is a small section of the Johari Window: Four parts of social psychological self which explains the complexity of communication. Another concept was the ORJI cycle of observation, Reaction, Judgement and Intervention where Humble Enquiry is a part of the intervention! Lot of bits and pieces of useful information in this little gem! Strongly recomended!!

Some Quotes:

“Most of my important lessons about life have come from recognizing how others from a different culture view things.”

“Ultimately the purpose of Humble Inquiry is to build relationships that lead to trust which, in turn, leads to better communication and collaboration.”

“Telling puts the other person down. It implies that the other person does not already know what I am telling and that the other person ought to know it.

“The culture of Do and Tell does not teach us how to change pace, decelerate, take stock of what we are doing, observe ourselves and others, try new behaviors, build new relationships.”