Summary of Humble Inquiry

The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling

Berrett-Koehler, more...

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Humble Inquiry book summary
Build stronger relationships by showing humility and “asking” instead of “telling.”


8 Overall

8 Applicability

9 Innovation

7 Style


Retired MIT professor Edgar H. Schein makes a solid case for humility. He explores the way American culture prioritizes action, practicality and competition over courteousness and respect. Schein encourages openness and curiosity about others in the form of “Humble Inquiry” – “the fine 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.” To counter a working environment often short of manners and civility, getAbstract recommends this slim but powerful book to executives, managers, leaders and anyone who wants to know how to ask a polite question and who really wants to know the answer.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How using “Humble Inquiry” can help build relationships,
  • How this differs from other forms of questioning and
  • How to develop “Asking” skills.


“Humble Inquiry”
American culture encourages “Telling” instead of “Asking.” But telling hinders relationships, because when you tell people what to do, you assume they’re incompetent or lack information and that you’re the expert. “Asking” fosters better relationships. When you ask people...
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About the Author

Professor Edgar H. Schein retired from the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is the author of several books, including Helping and The Corporate Culture Survival Guide.

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