STRATEGIC QUESTIONING CAN BE a personal process if used between two people for their own growth and change, or it can be a political process when considering changes amongst groups and institutions working for the common good.

    You can practice strategic questioning through every day conversation. I would urge people to learn by practicing these processes in twos and threes, as it is often very difficult to think of long lever questions while listening one on one in a conversation. Listening is challenging, thinking of long lever questions is challenging, and living in the world is hard, so I think it is easier to learn to ask strategic questions where you can sit back a bit. You need to observe and get enough distance to examine the unexamined assumptions, look for movement and think of the unaskable.

    The process of strategic questioning brings up in people their most deeply personal visions of the future. Even subjects like sex and money pale in contrast to our deeper feelings about our dreams and fears for the health of the earth and our own society.

    The current political system is characterised by static and cynical thinking which only barely masks our fears and dreams about our collective lives. I do not see apathy in our citizenry, I see a deep fear of caring too much and a fear of being disappointed. I see a passive people who are being fed information about the world in passive and isolating ways and who are afraid they will loose what they have if they challenge that passivity. I see a people who have fallen out of touch with the habits of liberation. I see people longing for a way to move to a better relationship with themselves, with their families and with their society. I also see a people who are experiencing change. And I see the shock that accompanies change , as people try to figure out the implications of these changes on their lives and institutions.

    So few ways remain for us to show our caring in the world without risking being ripped off or manipulated into some ego driven or sectarian campaign. We have learned to suspect political double-talk and group-think ... which has left us unable to acknowledge our longings for real political change.

    But we can act. We must accept the responsibility that whatever we do - or don't do - impacts on the ways of life we all share. We are always involved ... even if we are sitting on the sideline. We are consuming resources, having relationships, working toward goals. There is no way we are not involved in what is happening. The question is, How best can we be involved ?

    We can start with deep and dynamic questioning where the solutions are limited only by our imaginations. Let us find out what our neighbours and co-workers really think. Then when we have heard enough of what people long to do, to be, let us go forward with strategies which come from the people.

    Fran Peavey

    NOTES ...

  • I didn't invent the words "strategic questioning", although I thought I did. I had been using the term for four years, when a few years ago while doing some research I came upon a small book about teaching called Strategic Questioning written by Ronald T. Hymen, a close friend of a college professor of mine. So I must have heard the words 25 years ago and the word seeds got planted way back there in my mind; then when I needed them they came blossoming up. Thank you Ronald T. Hymen.

  • My friend Mark Burgh has helped me see that there are two kinds of communication.
    Communication of the first kind is about what is. It usually involves the transmission of information in a static or passive way. There is an assumption of inertia in the communication. "Things will stay the same."
    Communication of the second kind, is focussed on what reality could be. It creates information rather than communicating information that is already known. Mark Burgh describes this as the "immersion of the person in a vibrating, tingling, undulating ocean of "transactions"..." ( Depth Psychology and Sustainable Development by Mark Burgh, a private paper, August 1991.)
    I see strategic questioning as an important skill in the development of this communication of the second kind.

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