Using this Punctuation Will Make You a Better Friend

by Joe Fontenot in Foundations of Leadership

frog friends on couch

As punctuation goes, periods are our standard. They go with us everywhere, for better or for worse.

And exclamation points are like that dog, high on bacon. Most days, that’s not helping.

But question marks are different.

While periods and exclamations look backward. But question marks look forward.

In 1969, we walked on the Moon for the first time because a lot of people asked a lot of questions. Questions like…how are we actually going to do this?

Questions change our lives on a big scale.

But if we’re not careful, we can leave them up there on that big scale, and we can miss their power day to day.

You Not Me

The question mark gives us unprecedented access to make a difference in every single person we come in contact with.

That’s because questions are all about the other person. The conversation’s no longer about what you can bring, but what they can have to offer.

When this happens, you are saying above all else–my focus is on you.

(A quick aside, Kurt Kuenne made a great video about this, staring actor TJ Thyne.)

Double Down

We can take this a step father.

We live in a world of ‘friends.’ I have no idea how many Facebook friends I have, but I’m pretty sure I don’t know them all. They’re not really friends, they’re just acquaintances–people I occasionally bump in to.

But actual friends are different.

How many people could you call at 2 a.m. if you needed help? That list, those are your actual friends.

So, how do we go from a world of superficial friends to community of actual friends?

One way–a way each of us can do every single day–is to think in questions. The next time you’re in a conversation, make it your goal to throw in that little curly as much as you can.

Here’s Why This Works

Thinking in questions does two things. It shows the other person that you’re putting them first. It’s hard not to like someone who defers to you and cares about your life.

The second thing it does is it turns you into a learner. When you’re spouting periods, and (heaven forbid) exclamation points, you’re only regurgitating, be it right or wrong, what you already know. But when you become a learner, you get better.

And when you get better at knowing the other person, you find, without a doubt, that you now know how to help them.

You are now an actual friend.


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