Ed Schein defines Humble Inquiry as “the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.” In this seminal work, Schein contrasts Humble Inquiry with other kinds of inquiry, shows the benefits Humble Inquiry provides in many different settings, and offers advice on overcoming the cultural, organizational, and psychological barriers that keep us from practicing it.
"This is a short read, but worth the time investment."International Society of Sustainability Professionals
"Ed Schein, an academic with a 50-year distinguished record in organisational psychology, has written a hugely-reflective book that brings to bear the rich experience arising from his pioneering career." HR Zone
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Task-oriented relationships are those in which one person needs something specific from the other person.
Sociologists have proposed various ways to classify all the kinds of relationships that we get into. To understand Humble Inquiry, it’s useful to distinguish particularly between task-oriented relationships and person-oriented relationships.
If you’re trying to develop a good relationship and feel the conversation going in the wrong direction, you can humbly ask some version of “What’s happening? Did I offend you?” to explore what might be wrong and how it might be fixed.
An option that’s always on the table is to shift the conversational focus onto the conversation itself.
The more authoritarian the culture, the greater the sociological distance between the upper and lower levels of status or achievement, and, therefore, the harder it is for the superior to be humble.
The degree to which superiors and subordinates can be humble differs by the basic assumptions of the culture they grew up in.
This kind of inquiry occurs when you get curious about a particular thing the other person is telling you and choose to focus on it.
Humble inquiry is the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you don’t already know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.