With a house full of kids, there is no shortage on the downpour of questions each day. However, I've noticed that they often ask the question, but have no real interest in the answer. Perhaps my answers are too long, or too boring... OF COURSE, my kids are also not too impressed with most of my questions: Is your homework done? Did your make your bed? What did you learn at school today?
What have I learned? The RIGHT question matters.
I've learned over the last few years about the benefits of powerful questions. These types of questions are not leading or manipulative, but help bring clarity and direction. Powerful questions keep us from the virus of advise giving, and believes in the potential of the other person.
However, there is an ART
of asking the RIGHT QUESTIONS.
1. Observe: Being able to ask good questions, involves the ability to observe person's life within context. Too often we are obsessed with the immediate, and therefore never talk about anything truly important. Keen observation leads to powerful questions!
2. Listen: Turn off the flow of words
and truly listen. Not half heartedly, but truly listen with the intent to hear. It is amazing we miss because we haven't worked hard enough at listening. Focused listening will improve your performance at work, in your marriage, with friends and with your children. Good listening is by no means passive, in fact, it is draining. Listening is extremely active.
3. Wait: Relationships are built on trust, and trust is the basis for honest questions and answers. Infact, the level of honesty is in direct correlation to the level of trust. This can't be rushed. Wait for trust to develop. Waiting also involves the correct time to ask the questions. Growing up my mom knew us kids would talk at night because we didn't want to go to sleep. Take advantage of these times, that are often inconvenient to you.
4. Follow: I've learned that just because I have an answer (my perceived answer), the person I'm talking to might not be asking that question right now. The right words at the wrong time are always wasted. Instead, follow where they are leading in the conversation. You will hear key words or phrases that will reveal their fears, hopes, dream, frustrations, etc... Although you lead with a question, you follow where they lead.
5. Refrain: It is always tempted to ask questions out of inquiry. It is valuable to ask yourself, "Why am I asking this question?" Is it for your benefit (cause we are all a bit nosy) or are you asking the question for their benefit. Powerful questions only emerge as we are acting in the best interest of the other person.
6. Focus: Powerful questions are rarely if ever general questions. What happened at school today?, is an example of a general question. It doesn't focus on a certain subject or group of friends, nor does it bring clarity to my children. A question my kids love to answer is "Who did you play with at recess today?" Since this is 1 or 2 word answer, it must be followed up with an open ended question.
For instance, "How did you spend your time at recess?" It is amazing where my kids take me in review of their day when we have this type of discussion. If you need some help with this, I thought that this is a good link on asking Open Ended Questions.
Finally, I thought it would be helpful to give examples of what powerful questions:
- What’s are the 2 most important areas of your life right now?
- How did you come to that conclusion?
- How are you investing in these areas of priority?
- What projects or goals are you working on at the moment?
- What challenges are you struggling with at the moment?
- How can you word that goal more specifically?
- How can you measure that goal?
- How would you describe your relationships?
- What areas of your relationship are you most proud?
- If you could add "something" to your relationship, what would be most helpful?
- Is there anything you forgot to do before leaving for school? (making the bed always comes up)
- What do you see in your future?
As I have learned to ask better questions, I've also learned to ask myself powerful questions. It has helped me to guide my thoughts to more productive, and in a positive direction. The right questions lead us to the right answer.
As you evaluate your questions to others, also consider what questions you need to be asking your self.
In fact, perhaps we can help one another. Please respond with a POWERFUL QUESTION that we may ask ourselves. I love learning from others!