Answer People NOT Questions

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Hello folks,

This is going to be an excellent year.

When I was studying Torah (bible) with a Rabbi and while I was learning from Chabad in the Midwest, I came across a saying. And this quote has become one of my favorite and has been shaping my approach to communication since. It is –

A Rabbi answers questions but a Rebbe answers people.

A Rebbe is a Rabbi, but one who has an intimate connection to his God, his people, his people’s experiences, his community, his own experience, and a wealth of wisdom and insight from the God who made and knows the people.

For instance this is my version of a story of my favorite Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, taken from the book Seeds of Wisdom – 2, written by Mendel Kalmenson:

A young Rabbi who had a fledgling business came to see the Rebbe because he was feeling overwhelmed. He was hoping to find out where to cut back and where to focus. Instead, the Rebbe said to him,

Not only should you NOT cut back your activities, but you should increase your outreach efforts, your rabbinic work, and also your business.”

Now, tell me this. Did that answer the question? Did this answer even sound like it answered the person?

Honestly, I don’t think so. But this is a reply to the puzzled business Rabbi who didn’t think the answer or counsel was realistic. The Rebbe gave him an elaborate answer which for the purpose of this post, I summarize as,

I’ll tell you what your difficulty is. Its your interaction with the people which you think is overwhelming.”

What the Rebbe did was look to the fears and concerns of his constituent which he addressed. He wasn’t just answering a question. He was answering the person asking the question. And there is a big difference.

Answer the people, not their question. Try it at home or with your friends

To do justice to the complete story, I will include the Rebbe’s full response in another post. Then there is this other scenario which is all too common.

You visit grandma’s house on Sunday evening. She feeds you so much food you can barely walk. Then she asks you,

Would you like some pie?” 

Sweet mercy! Its your favorite pie. But you are stuffed. So you answer,

No, grandma. Thank you. I am stuffed.”

Then grandma asks,

Would you like some ice cream or cherry on your pie,” as she serves you an enormous piece of pie on her favorite china.

And Grandma just ignored what you said. To which your response, should be (if you love your life),

Yes grandma. With ice-cream.”

Story of my life

Its as if what you said flew right past her.

Or, did it?

If you listened to and answered grandma’s question, you may have concluded that grandma likes to feed her fledglings to death. Grandma thinks we eat and get tired but never satisfied. And you will be mostly wrong.

But, if you listened to grandma the person, you would have realized that grandma was sending a message. You would have realized that she was telling you that –

she loves you, wants you to prosper, to have more than enough. You would have heard grandma saying that regardless of what you do, the decisions you make, or what happens, she will be there for you with more than enough love that you will ever need just like the pie she insists on you will eat.

To test this, ask grandma this follow up question when you are eating the pie,

Grandma, why are you so nice to me? Why give me more than I can eat?”

See what she says then.

In short,

Listen to people, not their questions. Try this at home and see how well you do with your family and friends when you go straight to answering your people’s fears and concerns instead of their questions.

Regardless of the talents, gifts, callings, words, knowledge…connections we have, after everything is set and done, we still have people to deal with. Better yet, to fulfill our destiny, we have to serve and navigate our way past people politics using people logistics.

We still need to understand people dynamics to enjoy and do life well. And a good start is not planning to give advice but just hearing folks out so that we can truly answer the people behind the questions, not the questions themselves. For that brings healing.

I wish you all a week full of love and profitable connections in Jesus name.

One love, One Spirit

1 comments on “Answer People NOT Questions”

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