The Most Effective Question to Help You Understand Yourself and Others

Renée Fishman
2 min readJun 11, 2020

Seek first to understand, then to be understood. — Stephen Covey

Stephen Covey explains that seeking real understanding affirms the other person and what they have to say. He’s not wrong on this one.

Every human being desires to feel seen, heard, and understood.

So, how do we create space for this real understanding?

We can ask an effective question.

Why?” is a common default for many of us, and my personal habit. It slices right into to the muscle of motivation and reason; it reveals how people think and what influences them.

But Why? can come across as judgmental, even if not intended as such. Tone is very important. Also, why? doesn’t always get to the heart of our felt experience.

We need a question that can more effectively open the door to deeply understanding other people and their experience. Here’s a suggestion:

What’s it like?

In the context of current world events, we can ask black people and people of color:

What’s it like to be a black person in America?
What’s it like to be a person of color in America?

In the context of better understanding our individual mind/body/emotion connection we can ask ourselves:

What does it feel like in my body right now?

What’s it like? reminds us that each of us experiences the world differently. And that we can experience the world differently at different times.

It’s a question that creates space for others to feel seen and heard, and leads to deeper understanding of ourselves and others.

Originally published at on June 11, 2020.

Renée Fishman

Creating a new paradigm of productivity for high-achieving ADHD women tired of the hustle. Founder,The Ritual Revolution™️.