Don’t judge me. I took some training in community organizing. Utter the phrase “community organizing” these days and you’re apt to get an eye roll or a sigh. But I spent some of the most enlightening times of my life organizing people to bring about effective change in an urban neighborhood. One of the keys of community organizing is sitting down face to face with other people and asking a question.
The key to organizing people is to build relationships. Relationships start with two people sitting down face to face, talking to each other, but mostly listening. The organizer, the one trying to accomplish things and get stuff done begins by asking a question. Sure, you might start by asking your counterpart to simply tell about themselves.
But a better, more revealing question is:
What are you struggling with right now?
That question alone helped us to find the pain of the people who lived in our neighborhood. It helped us to empathize with struggles and begin to plan solutions for people who really needed help. Asking that question propelled us toward things like getting stop signs on corners that needed them. But it was also the starting point of getting banks to set aside $35 million to renovate the abandoned homes they owned in our community.
The money from the banks was great, and all. But what I really appreciated was that I got to know, and got to be friends, with people I would have never known before. I’m pretty sure I would have never been in the same room as some of them. But despite our profound differences, we became friends. We worked together to accomplish much.
People in sincere relationship with one another can put aside differences and make things happen. That’s why starting with this simple question, and then paying attention to the answer, will improve a great many things.
So, How can that apply to your job? Where can that improve your church? How could asking that question improve relationships in your family? What positive change will happen tomorrow simply because you asked this question?
Go ahead and give it a try.
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