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Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  1,345 ratings  ·  166 reviews
The Key to Effective Communication

Communication is essential in a healthy organization. But all too often when we interact with people—especially those who report to us—we simply tell them what we think they need to know. This shuts them down. To generate bold new ideas, to avoid disastrous mistakes, to develop agility and flexibility, we need to practice Humble Inquiry.

Paperback, 144 pages
Published September 30th 2013 by Berrett-Koehler Publishers (first published January 1st 2013)
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I am getting more and more convinced that big, systemic change takes root in conscious but modest shifts in behaviour and thought. The argument developed in this short book confirms this: asking the right questions, from an authentic attitude of respect and curiosity, is the basis for building trusting relationships; trust facilitates better task-related communication and, thereby, ensures collaboration to get the job done. Humble Inquiry is particularly important given that organisations and co ...more
Richard Newton
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I rather liked this little book. I've been a fan of Schein's thinking for a long time, since I was first introduced to his ideas on Process Consulting when I was a junior management consultant, (I know, we all have things in our pasts that are embarrassing!).

This is a very easy read with deceptively simple advice, but summarises decades of experience on what really brings people and teams together, and what avoids the significant problems that result from a failure of people to effectively comm
Ajit Kumar
Feb 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-own
I have finished reading first four chapters. Really impressive and practical. As rightly pointed out in the book, we are accustomed to the culture of telling. Teamwork based on Inquiry -- specifically, Humble Inquiry, is difficult, but well worth the effort, especially if you're in a leadership position.

Update: I completed reading it. Really impressive, though I feel that some of the later chapters are repetition of what is mentioned in the first few chapters. Nevertheless, it serves and import
Lê Phúc
Sep 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
The idea is great and insightful. However, that could be easily covered by one chapter, not the whole book. The author repeat himself quite a lot.
Jerry Jennings
Relationships grow when people learn about and appreciate each other. I believe that many of us can benefit from being very intentional about reaching out and getting to know each other in our work places, communities and even families.
Edgar H. Schein in his new book: Humble Inquiry: the Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling (2013) writes, “Why is it so important to learn to ask better questions that help to build positive relationships? Because in an increasingly complex, interdependent, and
Bernd Schiffer
Fascinating! Lots to ponder. Decided to read it again immediately after I finished it.
Nov 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Mish-mash of advice that can be found in many other books I’ve read so I found it boring. What the author says isn’t wrong (“be humble”) but I worry that he omits things that are based on more solid evidence than his anecdotal experiences. For instance, he talks a lot about OR teams. I think that the checklist approach, which he sort of pooh-poohs, makes a lot more sense than relying on all the staff in the hospital to get to know each other personally.
The Checklist Manifesto How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
Tao Te Ching A New English Version by Lao Tzu
Managing Your Mind The Mental Fitness Guide by Gillian Butler
Dec 06, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
The value of asking questions based in genuine curiosity and interest (rather than telling people what you think) in building relationships, particularly for the person with higher status in the relationship. The author was a business school professor and a consultant, and the work is addressed to leaders in various positions, the type of people he might have helped professionally. Also, I felt he was used to presenting his material to largely male audiences. Nonetheless, there are many insights ...more
Shawna LeBlond
May 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pd
I read this for a professional development seminar. It was really interesting and made me think about a lot of my interactions as a manager and as a coworker. I think a lot of time we do not want to find the root of the problem instead we want to offer a quick fix solution, but without addressing underlying issues the problems will continue to arise. I thought this book provided a lot of great insight on how to effectively use questioning communication as a form of building trusting relationship ...more
Kristian Norling
Oct 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
How to be curious and humbly ask questions. A very humanistic approach on how to treat others, that also points to the need to show others that you are vulnerable, in order to build trust. Ends with a great chapter on how to develop an attitude of humble inquiry.

A short, concise and recommended read.
Ralf Kruse
Jan 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's impressive on how the right type of inquiry can make such a difference. Really enjoyed reading it. So much great insights on so many levels.
Shevon Quijano
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Edgar H. Schein encourages leaders to

“...create the climate that gives permission for the help to be given” as expressed by “drawing someone out [and] asking questions to which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.”

I absolutely loved his idea that I need to “access my ignorance” in order to lead conversations and decisions. So often leaders think that they need to pretend to know everything when they can achieve much
Dec 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, work
I think I tend toward (humble?) inquiry especially in my work, so the bigger ideas here weren't especially groundbreaking for me, but the clear articulation of them was helpful and validating. I don't think I learned a lot that'll change my behaviors, but I nodded a lot while reading. Like the best business books, this one takes a set of pretty simple ideas and explains them simply (but not patronizingly); in this case, the technique helps turn a more abstract sense or feeling about how we ought ...more
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Lovely little read and good reminder of the importance of asking instead of telling to build trusted relationships.
Dec 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Simple yet powerful message - and several questions that I will try on in my own life.
Ralf Kruse
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read the book years ago. In the first round I struggled to get some of the key aspects of the book.
The view on here-and-now humility and the perspective on how humble inquiries can change your own perspective, the perspective of others and whole systems struck me, when I re-read it recently.
Jan 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: od
Another great entry from Schein, who has cornered the market on demystifying human relations, especially in organizations. How do you cultivate a relationship in which information can be shared, based on genuine interest and respect? A great companion to reading on building trust and psychological safety.
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
Reasonable approach to mindful interactions in personal and professional life, pulling on a number of other threads: psychology, organizational behavior, culture, and popular literature. It meanders (but not delightfully) and the core message could be well-delivered as a long essay.
Pedro Limeira
Oct 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Even though I think the way of dealing with others proposed on this book goes way beyond any kind of method or directions, I really liked to see the picture it draws of the culture that is all around us.

The task-oriented culture implies a lack of attention to relationship issues, and that, in turn, ends up dampening the task accomplishment. Another thing that got my attention was the fact that we tend to act strategically when facing situations that might put our knowledge to proof. Why would I
Feb 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
In my workplace, we often speak of putting on our humility pants. The reality is that sometimes we are so wrapped up in what we need to accomplish, we miss each other, or do something stupid, or fail to ask the right and necessary questions. Figuratively putting on and announcing that we are putting on our humility pants signals a different intention, and makes the shift required a little easier, asking ourselves to be more mindful of what is and what is not and the limits of our knowing.

Oct 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a pretty short book that probes the art of asking questions that invite people into meaningful conversations with the express purpose of building authentic relationships. Practicing humble inquiry requires you to recognize and push beyond any biases or snap judgments that could lead you to make statements that shut down instead of open up conversations. The book only spends a brief time looking at the technique of humble inquiry because the concept is easy to grasp. Instead, it explores ...more
May 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Edgar takes up an increasingly complex topic and delves deep into it.
More real-life and specific examples would have been welcome, considering it is quite a complicated topic, being based around human interactions.
But that said, his understanding and respect of humility, awareness of the magnitude of the problem we face in a world that has become unconsciously attuned to either giving orders, or taking them; as opposed to interacting with others keeping them at the same level as us.
While some de
Jun 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: denison-bookclub
The author sends a clear and singular message that mastering the art of a humble inquiry is the key to effective communication, but I am left with more questions than answers after having read this book. Are humble inquiries the best method in all scenarios? A variety of cases were presented (e.g., hierarchical, cultural) in which a humble inquiry could clarify or alleviate otherwise precarious dialogue, but I wondered how conversations in this manner could lead to solutions or actions without b ...more
Jan Höglund
May 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Edgar H. Schein assumes that his readers are from the U.S. He refers, for example, to "our" task-oriented pragmatic culture throughout the book. And when discussing the main inhibitor of Humble Inquiry (Chapter 4) he only discusses the U.S. culture. This means that Schein addresses "the gentle art of asking instead of telling" from a rather narrow perspective. I'd also suggest to stop using the term "subordinates". It makes it much more difficult to move from telling to asking if we are still ta ...more
Alan  Marr
Dec 29, 2013 rated it liked it
This book is a very helpful reminder for those of us whose role in life is to listen. I read it because I was caught in a difficult conversation with a friend that became an argument and was getting nowhere until Jenny intercepted with a question that disarmed us both. I needed some revision. i like Edgar Schein so I read his book and it was extremely helpful. I am once again more conscious of the need to listen with humility to those who disagree with me. Will it last? Time will tell.
Sep 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: counselling
With just over a hundred pages, this is a slim volume, but very easy to read, and containing much valuable information about communication. Although it's targeting the business community, anyone seeking better communication with others could benefit from this book.

The writing is excellent too - I'm looking forward to reading more of Schein's books.
Sep 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
We are so accustomed to telling everyone what we know and what we did that we miss valuable opportunities to learn what we don't know from others. This book gives compelling reasons to think differently about how we communicate.
Ignacio Ahumada
Jul 21, 2014 rated it did not like it
nothing new, very few ideas. I would not recommend it to anyone. It should have stay as a chapter of another book.
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
„Pokorne odpytywanie. Delikatna sztuka stosowania pytań zamiast rozkazywania” — tak właśnie na język polski można przetłumaczyć tytuł tej książki.
Postać Edgarda Scheina jest mi znana już od prawie 10 lat. Zanim jeszcze założyłem konto na portalu LC przeczytałem jego kilka książek. Zawsze byłem pod wrażeniem jego teorii, wskazówek, porad z dziedziny psychologii, komunikacji czy zarządzania. Edgar Schein to profesor amerykański szwajcarskiego pochodzenia specjalizujący się w psychologii społecznej
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have learned a ton from Dr. Schein's work over the years. This short, practical book presents a positive way to have deeper and more meaningful conversations - exactly what we need right now.




“Humble Inquiry is the skill and the art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.”

“Most of my important lessons about life have come from recognizing how others from
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Edgar Schein is the Society of Sloan Fellows Professor of Management Emeritus and a Professor Emeritus at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Schein investigates organizational culture, process consultation, research process, career dynamics, and organization learning and change. In Career Anchors, third edition (Wiley, 2006), he shows how individuals can diagnose their own career needs and how man
“Most of my important lessons about life have come from recognizing how others from a different culture view things.” 4 likes
“Questions are taken for granted rather than given a starring role in the human drama. Yet all my teaching and consulting experience has taught me that what builds a relationship, what solves problems, what moves things forward is asking the right questions.” 2 likes
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