• Adam Tarnow

Ask, listen, remember

Updated: Jan 9, 2021

Listening. It’s the most critical communication skill. This was true in June 2019, and it’s certainly true now in June 2020.

You cannot ignore the conversation going on in our country. I, for one, am grateful for this conversation. It feels different, and I pray it’s not just a feeling. I pray this is a tipping point for long-last positive change.

I have learned so much the past two weeks by merely listening. I thought I understood most of the core issues of this conversation. To my shame, I didn’t. My excuses are terrible. I’m grateful my patient friends are teaching me so much.

Here are a few things I’ve learned…

  1. Some of my friends feel real fear, every day, because of the color of their skin.

  2. Few people fear me, because of the color of my skin, and that lack of fear is a privilege.

  3. It’s not awkward or offensive to ask my friends with a different skin color than me how they are feeling or how racism impacts their life.

  4. My dinner table is vitally important if there is going to be a lasting change in this country.

  5. Sometimes lamenting with someone is the most effective form of communication.

  6. There are individuals to love and systems to fix. Both are needed, and I can play a role in both.

I have found one of the best ways to facilitate listening is with a well-crafted question. To that end, here are three simple questions that are certain to lead to great listening opportunities:

  1. Would you like to come over for dinner on _________ night?

  2. What would you like me to know that you think I don’t know?

  3. How has society’s perception of your ethnicity and/or culture shaped how you view yourself and how you operate within the world?

Listening is a lifelong discipline, not something to do while protests are happening. Asking questions, listening to answers, and remembering what’s said have, and always will, communicate love and care.

This week, try out one of these questions. Excellent communicators are excellent listeners. Sometimes, you’ll be at your best and communicate the clearest when you ask a question, listen, and remember.


(1) Thank you to my friends Elizabeth Hoffman, Jhonda Johnson, Sierra Sanchez, Burlon Lefall, Alex Hockett, and Charran James for collaborating with me on this post.

(2) Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@brett_jordan

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