• Preston Fidler

Questions-Approach Index (QAI)

Question Approach Index (QAI)

Years ago, I was introduced to David Penny’s Question Approach Index which addresses the value of asking questions in our new languages and cultures both for learning purposes, and also for identity, community, relationship, and ministry purposes. This approach helps us understand how to become a good listener by becoming a good question-asker. The QAI offers ten reasons why we should ask lots of questions:

1. Using questions disciplines one to go slow, be respectful, and not jump to conclusions. Right from the beginning, it demands that we be a listener. It gives us a chance to learn more as we go, whether language, culture, truth, or other. Using questions nurtures a learner’s spirit, letting us presume our target knows more than we do. It encourages us to be humble. It calls for a proper attitude.


2. Using questions protects us from declarative statements which can seem proud, aggressive, and presumptuous. It helps us avoid getting too far ahead of where our neighbors are and diminishes the likelihood of offensive remarks.


3. Using questions honors our neighbor’s interests in the conversation, inviting them to take the discussion where it needs to go.


4. Using questions invites our neighbors to wrestle with and discover the truth themselves as they answer our questions. It allows them to go as far as they can while giving us the chance to lead them a little further in the truth by means of another question, might it be...?


5. Using questions forces us to determine what is worth asking, what is worth following up, and what should be the focus or direction of our inquiry as they guide and provide direction into conversations with our neighbors.


6. Using questions limits our words and helps us choose more carefully the best way to say something, what is of value and importance for the discussion and what is of greatest importance to the individual concerned. One can greatly influence a discussion with a few, well-chosen words.


7. Using questions puts a gentle burden of responsibility on the one who answers to demonstrate that he has sufficiently understood the areas being addressed.


8. Using questions helps our neighbors be more forgiving and understanding when we make errors or cultural blunders. This is essentially because the nature of a question-asker is less threatening, like the role of a learner or foreigner who still has much to learn. In short, being a question-asker gives us room for a few errors.


9. Asking questions offers a strong appeal without forcing our views upon anyone. We are called to persuade our lost neighbors to hear and respond in faith to the truth. Asking questions is a winsome way to do this.


10. Using questions allows our neighbors to redirect the conversation when it reaches a level they cannot sustain. Unlike the use of declarative statements, which can easily drive a conversation to an abrupt end or in an unhealthy direction – especially when using a new language – we are less likely to run aground with questions.


These are all great reasons for us as language learners to make a habit of asking questions. The more we ask, the more we get to hear responses. This, then, gives us great opportunities to practice our listening and our responsiveness to many topics and life situations. We want to learn to engage people in topics of deeper interest. Asking questions is one of the best ways to jump-start this learning process.


Using questions can be a great way to open the door to the gospel. In many languages and cultures people commonly respond to questions with questions. For example, a reasonably common response to a simple question such as “Where are you from?” may be “Where do you think I am from?” (communicated in a light-hearted manner, as in, “Guess where I am from!”) In our part of the world, questions about faith are common, “Are you a Christian?” It makes a lot of sense to ask something like, “What do you mean by Christian?” This sort of interrogatory response can open the door to a gospel conversation. Jesus commonly asked questions to get people to think about eternity. “What will it benefit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life?” (Matt 16:26).

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