When is a question not a question?

I was coming back from the hospital cafeteria when the nurse stopped me in the hall.

“And how are YOU doing?” she asked me.

I just stared at her.

I had been suppressing my emotions for several weeks. I genuinely didn’t know.

We were in a large hospital in New York City.

I had been sleeping in the hospital for two weeks while my wife recovered. The surgery went well but complications over the following days almost killed her… twice.

My wife, Krissie, is a seven-time cancer survivor. I am an expert at suppressing my emotions until a more convenient time. It probably isn’t the healthiest strategy, but it has worked for me for over two decades.

“I’m… I think I’m… Ummm…”

The nurse waited patiently.

“Well, I mean all things considered, I’m…”  I still had no idea.

“It’s ok,” the nurse said with smile, handing me one of those little cans of ginger ale that hospitals have in endless supply.


Questions have power.

They tell the other person that you care…

That they matter…

That you see their humanity…

Questions convey a message:

  • When the nurse asked me, “And how are YOU doing?” she was saying “You matter too.”
  • When you ask someone, “What’s your name?” you are saying “I see you.”
  • When you ask someone, “Where are you from?” you are saying “I care enough about you to care about your background.”
  • When you ask someone, “How is your day going?” you are saying “I care about your well-being.”

Questions are especially powerful when we are at our most vulnerable.

Like when we are in a hospital with our wife…

Or homeless…

Or unemployed…

Or depressed…

Or grieving…

Or struggling with addiction…

Or an insecure teenager…


Questions have power.

Pennies in the Cup

Questions are also my favorite way to get “Pennies in the Cup.”

Pennies in the cup is our “game” for preventing conflict. You get an imaginary “penny” in your imaginary “cup” every time you do something nice for a person (like ask a question!). 

If you get five or more pennies with a person, you can “cash them in” later to avoid conflict.

That is how you prevent conflict.

Want to make questions and Pennies in the Cup a habit at work? 

You’re in luck!

In March, we are doing a “Pennies in the Cup” challenge.  It is free to EVERYONE.  Your organization does NOT have to be a paying member to join.

Here’s how it works:

  • Step 2: Watch (for free) our training from last month on how you can prevent conflict.
  • Step 4: Do the daily challenges (and maybe even win prizes!).
  • Step 5: Have less conflict at work for the rest of your career!!!

Conflict prevention doesn’t work if you know what to do, but don’t do it. 

The Challenge is designed to help you practice the strategies until they become habit.

See you on Thursday at the Kickoff!



P.S. Throughout the Challenge we’ll be giving away seats for you and 4 friends to attend our live training on April 13 which will be Homeless De-Escalation 401: Managing your own emotions during conflict! So make sure you complete at least one task each day so you’ll have a chance to win 😊

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