The Courage To Ask Relationship-Building Questions

In the last article, I spoke about Ego (the monkey on our shoulder) and how its quest to protect us prevents us from being able to team up well with other people.  Today, I’d like to talk about overcoming that, and finding the courage to ask relationship-building questions.

Relationship-building questions are those that invite the other person or people to participate in an open conversation with you, volunteering an exchange of information that can promote the building, expanding and strengthening of the relationship between those people.  And yet, we generally steer well clear of these types of questions.

Perhaps we do this because we’re under pressure and think we don’t have the capacity to take on the feedback these questions encourage.  Perhaps we don’t trust that the feedback will be positive and therefore our egos prevent us from asking.  Perhaps we’re still under the illusion that we’ll get further if we go alone.

First, let’s take a quick walk through the four reasons the great John Maxwell1 feels we often choose to stand alone so that we can guard ourselves against these weaknesses:


No surprise here, right?  We’ve spoken about it in some depth recently – how it feels when our ego spikes; how the physiological reaction that follows takes our brain offline and prevents us being able to have collaborative conversations; and what to do about it.  Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie said “It marks a big step in your development when you come to realise that other people can help you do a better job than you could do alone.”  We can only achieve big things when we can put our egos aside and are ready to be part of a team.


Niccolo Machiavelli wrote “The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him.”, and yet we find that some individuals fail to promote teamwork because they feel threatened by other people.  It is insecurity that causes us to surround ourselves by weak people.  The wish to maintain control over everything, or the fear of being replaced by someone more capable keeps leaders from achieving their own potential and erodes the best efforts of the people with whom they work.


The achievement of big goals requires a team.  And yet, many naively think that they can get things done faster and better alone.  People who fail to build teams underestimate the difficulty of achieving big things and consequently never reach the goals that could have been expanded on with a strong team.


Some less outgoing people simply don’t think in terms of team building and participation.  As they face challenges, it never occurs to them to enlist others to achieve something.  John Maxwell says “If you do everything alone and never partner with other people, you create huge barriers to your own potential.”

Nobody is a whole team…  We need each other.  You need someone and someone needs you.  Isolated islands we’re not.  To make this thing called life work, we gotta lean and support.  And relate and respond.  And give and take.  And confess and forgive.  And reach out and embrace and rely…. Since none of us is a whole, independent, self-sufficient, super-capable, all powerful hotshot, let’s quit acting like we are.  Life’s lonely enough without our playing that silly role.  The game is over.  Let’s link up.

– Chuck Swindoll (The Finishing Touch)

Asking relationship-building questions

In reality, asking these types of questions allow us to build strong teams that network out further than our own small influence.  Teams that support us and that have the energy to contribute towards what we’re trying to achieve.  Asking these questions strengthens the ties between the members of the team and more than anything else, earns us a couple of  VITALLY important things.

Asking these questions means having the courage of our convictions.  Courage to meet the answers these questions illicit and to act accordingly on that feedback.  Having that courage earns us a couple of things more powerful than most teams ever have – CLARITY & TRUST.

So what do relationship-building questions sound like?  Here are a few examples:

How can I help you?

What can we do to make it right?

What do we do that frustrates you?

Does your ego spike as you imagine asking these questions of those around you?  Can you replace that spike with the courage to seek and address their responses?  When was the last time you considered the lattice that is, or could be, your team?  Direct team members, auxiliary staff, vendors, suppliers, clients, teaching staff, parents, your spouse, your children… where does your lattice stretch to?

This week, consider asking questions that challenge your ability to receive feedback and create relationship.  Ask for clarity.  Clarity is strength.  So is relationship.

Reference1 – John Maxwell– The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork

by Christen Killick

March 4th, 2019

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