What kinds of questions actually help?
Imagine you are coaching someone who is wracked with self-doubt. What would happen if you could ask a question that would shift their awareness to what they can trust in themselves?
What about a person who is blaming themselves for a mistake; what questions might help them move from blame toward responsibility?
Sometimes people will be struggling with regret, with consequences of the past, and with a nagging wondering about “why”. Others get caught up in their fears, or they make assumptions that things are not possible. Expert coaches know what to listen for and how to ask the question that will move the person from a sense of stuckness into a place of movement and freedom.
How exactly can you design powerful questions? What are the techniques?
- Stay loving, relaxed, and fully present to the conversation, and to the heart of the person you're listening to. Love is not a technique, per se, but none of your techniques matter without it.
- Keep your questions simple and clear.
- Ask open-ended questions that begin with a question word. "What" is generally the most powerful word to open a question with. After the what is established, "how", "when", "where", "with whom", "as part of what larger purpose" will all take you to magnificent realms.
- As a general rule, avoid the question “Why?” (why tends to lead the person further down the track of unhelpful stories)
- Ask one question at a time. Then stay silent.
- Go with the flow.
- Pick up on your conversation partner's keywords, especially value words, or words signaling a faulty belief system.
- Listen for any metaphors used, and inquire further using their metaphoric language.
- Explore any ambiguity or incongruity between their words and their physical signals.
- Ask future-oriented questions.
- Avoid asking questions for your own personal information or curiosity. This is about them.
- Allow the other person to set the priorities toward what they really want.
Powerful questions are specific to the client; they evoke discovery, insight, commitment, or action. Powerful questions are open-ended and create greater clarity, possibility, or new learning; they move people towards what they desire, not to justify past actions.
It never ceases to amaze me what shifts can happen with a good question. What's the last powerful question you can remember someone asking you? What question are you asking yourself now?