Have you ever experienced a situation in life where you were freaking out and needed help, so you discussed your situation with a friend or family member? Yet, you left the conversation feeling no better off then when you started. You may have found yourself nodding your head in agreement with what they were saying, but it did not make you feel any better or give you the motivation to change yourself. This is because they were probably advising you, telling you what to do, or—heaven forbid—lecturing you.
I would like to introduce you to a life changing coaching tool called asking “powerful questions”. A power question can be short, is always open-ended, and causes you to shift your focus and evoke personal exploration.
When a closed question is asked (like “Why did you do that?”), it creates a narrow tunnel that usually ends with a yes or no or with defensiveness. If you are wanting to create a meaningful impact in the world, teach yourself to become really good at asking powerful questions–with yourself and with others.
A powerful question is open-ended and causes the recipient to stop and think…. It comes from a place of curiosity, causes expansion, and challenges you to think in new ways.
For example: You are having a conversation with a friend about her lack of finances, and she is really worried about how to pay her mortgage by the end of the month:
Closed question – “How will you come up with the money by the end of the month?” (This question will take her onto a pathway of stress).
Complaining with them– “Oh no, this is terrible! What are you going to do? I can relate—my finances are really bad too and my credit card is maxed out….
Lecture – “You know you have always been irresponsible with money. I am not surprised you are in this situation.
Advice – “If you read Susie Orman’s book on finances and work through your beliefs and spending patterns, you can turn this around.”
- “What is the most desirable outcome you would like?”
- “What is the biggest change you need to make?”
- “What can you do immediately to feel more empowered?”
- “Who can assist you with a solution?”
- “What do you think your wise future self would tell you to do?”
- “What if you expanded this beyond just making your next mortgage payment?”
- “What if you made a decision from this moment forward to increase your wealth set point, and no more struggling with money issues?”
- What’s the decision you need to make?”
- “What is one action you could take right now to align with this?”
From the questions above, you can see the different directions the conversation can go. Some directions are productive, while some are not.
Now, think of one situation in life that is less then desirable, and ask yourself 2 to 3 powerful questions. Use the examples above, and notice how you feel and think afterward.
My good friend, Jeanna Gabellini, sums up powerful questions like this, “Imagine you are doing a Google search and you put in loads of words that are not really specific, and the result you get is pages of information. Then you spend hours weeding through and getting frustrated. Versus typing in very specific information and receiving the results you are wanting.”
Our brain always comes up with answers. When we ask questions like “Why does this always happen to me,” or “Why am I stuck,” your brain may say things like, “Well, you are a loser,” or “You are a procrastinator.”
A powerful question may be “What’s the most important change I can make to get a powerful result?” The benefit of asking questions instead of advising is quite simple. Questions lead us to think, create answers we believe in, and act on our ideas. Asking moves us beyond passive acceptance of what others say and feeling stuck in present circumstances. It places us back into our seat of power.
Most important people find their own solutions within, rather than from you. When people find their own answers, they feel motivated and energized.
Questions also redefine our relationships with people. When I am advising or mentoring, I am the expert. But when I ask for your ideas I become your peer. Asking changes the relationship and it also changes me. When I hold you as creative, resourceful, whole, and with access to your own answers, everyone wins.
Next time you find yourself in a boring or less than stellar conversation, put your curious hat on and ask some powerful questions.