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The 3 Best Questions a Mentor Can Ask

My friend helped me listen . . . to me

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The most helpful answers aren't always the ones that come from questions you ask. Instead, sometimes they result from the questions others ask you. This occurred to me after a recent chat with a mentor friend. I was feeling restless. I had stuff in my heart that I didn't really understand. I felt all knotted up and I wanted to talk with my mentor about what was troubling me, but I didn't even know how to put words to it. My ever-wise friend moved us in the right direction with three well-pointed questions.

She started off with a simple question: "How are you doing?" I answered quickly: "Fine."

She shot me a look and asked me again. The emphasis she put on the word doing and the look in her eyes was a warning to slow down and really consider the question, so I did. Was I really fine? What were the uneasy things going on in my head and heart and what was prompting them? In really slowing down, it became apparent this actually wasn't a simple question at all. Was I taking care of myself by allowing the amount of margin and breathing space I knew I needed? What was my body saying? What were my emotions telling me? And this question wasn't just about how I was doing physically. How was I doing as a mom and a wife and a friend? A recent conversation where leaky eyes had crept up on me and took me by surprise came to mind. My friend just listened.

Was I managing my work or was it managing me?

Then she moved on to the next question: "How are you and your job doing?" Not wanting her to repeat the look, I took this one slow. Everything was going well, but that wasn't really what she was asking. She was digging into how the relationship was going—between this job and me. Was I managing my work or was it managing me? Was I walking the gentle line of balance or was I tipping over to the side of working too long and too hard, as I was so inclined to do? Was I deriving my satisfaction with myself based on what I was able to accomplish, focusing solely on results and not paying attention to what was embedded in the process? Was I lending my heart to the people and the pain and the passion that was before me every workday? Was I taking time to celebrate the work God was allowing me to be a part of or was I just showing up and grinding it out? The answers poured out, even without my friend having to prompt me with the secondary questions. I felt my friend's kind eyes on me as if to say, are you listening to this?

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Sherry Surratt

Sherry Surratt is the CEO and President of MOPS International. Connect with her online at or follow her on Twitter at @SherrySurratt.

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The 3 Best Questions a Mentor Can Ask