Hosted by Vanessa Zoltan
Have you ever wrestled with daunting questions that seem to have no clear answers? Or, have you ever wanted to be a better friend, helping those closest to you process the challenging questions in their lives? If either of those sounds like you, then it might be worth checking out this month’s podcast: “The Real Question.”
Created a few years back by Vanessa Zoltan, Casper ter Kuile, and Ariana Nedelman, the podcast focuses on “big life questions that don’t [always] have simple answers.” Host Vanessa Zoltan – trained as a non-denominational chaplain through Harvard Divinity School – is no stranger to unfolding these big questions and seeing what falls out.
The show clearly shines in its “questioner” and “reflector” format. One person brings a big question that they’re wrestling with, and the listener reflects back what they are hearing, prompting additional questions and introspections along the way. It is in this reflective back and forth that the magic of meaning-making takes place, with the questioner finding some new insight or revelation along the way.
In some of their earlier episodes, ter Kuile and Zoltan trade places in these roles, each helping the other tease apart their big questions to find the deeper meaning within. Together they wrestle through complex topics like growing older, nostalgia, dating, relationships, medical concerns, and career choices.
In more recent episodes of “The Real Question,” Zoltan has been exploring the process of “quitting.” She talks with guests about toxic work environments, troublesome habits, difficult social situations and explores whether or not quitting these things is the right choice. Again, Zoltan’s skill at active listening is apparent as she helps her guests explore their dilemmas, allowing them to use their own wisdom to come to the conclusions they need. Often, it is one of her simple questions or keen insights that helps the questioner see things in an entirely new light.
While there are many episodes worth checking out for their specific content, it’s the application of pastoral skills that is truly worth noting. If you want to learn how to be a better active listener, to improve as a pastor, chaplain, or even as a good friend, this podcast is worth checking out. Just by listening it is easy to see how a simple question or thoughtful insight can help someone find a new way forward.