The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out. (Proverbs 20:5)
This is a verse that I've been pondering on for some time now, as I think it gets at the heart of a skill I've been trying to obtain: the art of asking good questions. If you'll recall from my 30 Life Lessons, I recognize the need for this skill; however, I often have difficulty actually doing it. I have a few friends who are very good at this. It makes them excellent conversationalists and I'm trying my best to learn from them!
Knowing how to ask the right questions is something that does not come naturally to me, but I think this proverb highlights one of the reasons that it is so important. People are complicated. Many are closed off and guarded for any number of reasons. Others are simply introverted (we have two of those in our two-person household!) and need some prompting to share from their thoughts or experiences. Whatever it is that is stirring inside a person's heart -- that which is deep and at their core -- often needs to be drawn out, as a bucket is drawn from a deep well. And when we take the time to draw those things out of a person, it often benefits both parties.
As usual, I love how Matthew Henry underscores what we are missing when we don't practice good question asking:
"Some are very able and fit to give counsel...but they are modest, and reserved, and not communicative; they have a great deal in them, but it is loth to come out. In such a case a man of understanding will draw it out, as wine out of a vessel. We lose the benefit we might have by the conversation of wise men for want of the art of being inquisitive."
- Matthew Henry's CommentaryNot only can you learn from others if you take the time to ask good questions, but it makes the other person feel valued, too. And there's a benefit to the soul of being able to share things from your heart to someone trustworthy who wants nothing more than to understand you better and learn from you.
The word "draw" is the word that stuck out to me most in this passage, and I'm still trying to unpack it. There's a tugging, a gentle pulling that brings out the heart of a person -- and it begins with good questions. But how do you ask good questions? I think it starts with observing and listening. Pay attention to what's important to someone and ask them about that. Notice when someone doesn't seem quite his or herself, and inquire. Ask the "whys" and the "hows" -- not just the "whats". Ask specifics and not just generalities. When you draw out the whole person, you get to see a glimpse of who they really are -- who God created them to be. You are able to know and be known. And it is beautiful.
For my 31st birthday, I decided to write down 31 of my favorite proverbs, or wise sayings from the Bible that I had been studying. This year, I am hoping to take a deeper dive into each of them and share some thoughts on them with you here.