The role of questions in Community Building

The role of questions in Community Building

You may have read about questions, and how to use them to have a conversation. You have probably been trained on the open ended questions, yes or no questions and when to use which one.

ommunity Building is different enough that refers us to reevaluate the value and role of questions.

I am intending to approach this issue from three angles:

  1.  When and why we don't use questions
  2.  Questions from the facilitators
  3.  What questions to ask from ourselves during a Community Building Workshop.

1. We don't ask each other questions during sessions in a CB circle

One of the most important guidlines in CB is 'to speak when moved to speak, and not speak when not moved'.(Yeah, this can sound pretty weird – with some experience and practice can get more sense)

ommunity Building is not an intelectual discussion. It is not a friendly conversation to find out about each other. And is certainly not a superficial chitchat. It is not the place where we show our interest through posing questions and listening to the answer.

f we asked a question in a CB circle, we would invite the person to engage in a conversation, that takes him or her away from what it means to being moved to speak. It also disregards whether the other person really wants to share about that thing or not. It also excludes the other participants who are not interested in the same topic.

Letting people speak only when they are moved to allows the group to create an inclusive and very safe space.

BTW: it is all okay to have normal conversations in the breaks of a Community Building Workshop. So it is not that we regard it as a bad thing. But the goal of the CB process is to reach deeper emotional levels and for this endeavour asking questions from each other is not conducive.

2. Questions from facilitators

Facilitators may pose a question or two at some points of a workshop. Not that they ask a specific person to reply, but they ask the whole group to ponder and see if that makes anyone moved to reflect on it.

he function of the question in this case is to gently guide the focus of the participants in the right direction. (In a nutshell: at first questions might guide people to open up about their differences and not to act like everyone was the same, and later, to make people reflect about the things they might need to let go of.)

BTW: whether a facilitator uses questions or not depends on their training, experience, creativity and personality. Really good and creative facilitators initiate with good timing, and one form of initiative is throwing in a question or two for the group to reflect on.

3. Questions to ask ourselves in the circle

One of the characteristics of true community is that it is a group of all leaders.
So the group can become a true community only when all the participants lead themselves and each other.

s you may have already heard or read about, the first person a leader needs to lead is him- or herself
(BTW: this is the most difficult person to lead for anyone). And one way to lead ourselves is to ask ourselves questions.

So here are some self-reflection questions that are usually relevant in a CB circle for participants to pose and ponder for themselves in the minutes of silence and not only (with no particular order):

  • Do I really want to reach community? (Building community takes some desire – so it is a relevant question and probably it needs to be asked before attending such a workshop)

  • Do I feel safe? (Our aim is to create a safe place, and include everyone)

  • What would I need to feel safe? (In case your own answer to the previous question is „no”, then it is good to go one step further and see if you need to open up about why you don't feel safe, and what would you need to feel safe)

  • Am I following the guidlines? (The guidlines, although they can have some variations, are tested and proven, so they are there for good reasons. It is each participants' responsibility to follow them.)

  • Do I feel included?

  • What would I need to feel included?

  • Have I got a problem (conflict, displeasure) with anyone? (CB is a conflict resolving laboratory. The only way to solve a conflict is to open up and be very honest about it and it is also important to address the conflict in a respectful way, if at all possible)

  • What would be a good way to express that problem honestly but also gently and possibly respectfully?

  • Am I taking responsibility for myself?

  • Am I taking responsibility for the success of the group?

  • Do I care about the others?

  • Am I avoiding something? What am I avoiding?

  • Am I being present?

  • Do I owe the group to tell them something I may not want (or find easy) to tell them?

  • What do I need to let go of? What do I need to empty myself of?

  • Am I moved to speak?

My question to you now is: Are you ready to ask yourself these or similar questions? :)

ou see, a leader does not wait for others to do it for him or her. A leader takes responsibilty. Are you ready take responsibility? Are you ready to lead? What are some questions you have found helpful to ask yourself?

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