Today, some suggestions for how to ask us questions. At one level we don’t really care – any question shows you’re interested and want to be involved! However, these tips might help you to get some better answers out of us.
1. Don’t be embarrassed to ask something you think you should know.
Someone asked me the other day, ‘What exactly do you do in Tanzania? Like, I know you’re missionaries…’ I was so glad she did! I wasn’t offended she didn’t already know; I was excited that she was keen to take her knowledge of us and involvement with us to the next level.
2. Open is better than closed.
Questions like, ‘Do you feel like you’re achieving things?’, or ‘Do you enjoy it?’, or ‘Are you looking forward to going back?’ expect a yes or a no, but they don’t have yes or no answers. Asking them that way often leaves me pausing for a long time or stumbling. Better is to ask, ‘How are things shaping up?’, ‘What has been the highlight / lowlight?’, or ‘What will you return to?’.
3. Specific is better than general.
A question like, ‘what’s life like over there?’ is open, but I don’t know where to start! Pick a topic you’re interested in. For example, ‘What’s your house like?’, or ‘What do you eat?’, or ‘What do you see when you go for a walk?’ if it’s daily life you want to know about. If you’re looking for a bigger picture perspective, ask ‘How’s the political situation?’ or ‘How is socialising different?’ or ‘How is your life different to the average Tanzanian?’
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.