One simple thing you can do today to keep your community healthy

How does it feel when somebody takes a genuine interest in you?

It feels pretty good, doesn’t it.

Earlier today, I got a question from someone who is helping launch a community on GroupBuzz, asking:

“What simple thing can I do today to contribute to the long-term health of our fledgeling community?”

And I think the answer, in fact, is asking more questions.

Tummling is a bit like “close reading” your community. As a habit, you should be looking for opportunities to strategically say things like, “Can you say more about X? How did you get into that? What brought you to the conclusion of X? etc”, here X is something that they brought up themselves.

But don’t limit yourself to the specific interest that your community gathers around. Try digging your way towards peoples’ personal stories. Those personal stories are really the most powerful undercurrent of a fledgeling community, and all communities. The sooner you start discover those stories and in turn, help others discover each others stories, the better.

By encouraging people to tell more personal stories, you’re doing two things:

1) You’re showing that you’re genuinely curious about them

I sometimes talk about the burp-like ‘what do you do?’ question that most people reflexively ask when meeting someone. It’s a worthless interaction. Asking someone to talk more about about something they really care about is far, far more effective.

And, when you ask these kinds of questions in front of other members, you’re showing them that curiosity isn’t just okay, it’s valued in your community. And that’s a good thing.

2) You’re also surfacing personal stories

This is where real trusting connections are built. I’m not talking about that superficial “I trust you because I don’t think you’re a bad person” kind of trust, I’m talking about “I trust you because I believe I understand who you are, as a person”.

If this sounds heavy – it can be. That’s a side effect of creating something real and meaningful to other people.

But asking questions doesn’t need to be done heavy-handedly. You can just make it part of the conversation.

My favorite trick for making every conversation a prime venue for Tummling

Here’s your new habit: when you hear something that triggers your “hey, I have something to say about that!” reflex, STOP YOURSELF. It can be tough! Those reflexes are 100% natural.

Instead of piling on, if you’re going to say anything, save your addition for a couple turns of the conversation later. Force yourself to ask a question about that, instead.

Do this once and see where the conversation goes. Do it a second time if you’re feeling good about where things are headed.

And if you’re a teacher, consultant, or entrepreneur…

The more I’ve applied this questioning habit to get me closer to root problems, the BETTER results I’ve gotten in all of my work.

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Dat Socrates.