If we ask insightful questions of our children, parents, spouses, friends, employees, co-workers and bosses (to name a few) we can discover new answers and new ways of communicating. Asking insightful questions is something I learned during my coach training and apply during coaching sessions. At a recent workshop, I was asked to provide some open ended questions that parents can ask their children when helping their children to overcome their ADHD challenges. The request started me thinking that everyone can use insightful, open ended questions to improve communication.
As an example, if your child brings home grades that are not where you expected them to be, which one of the following questions would have a more insightful response:
- Why did you get this grade?
- What can you do differently next grading period?
The first question focuses on the past, while the second question focuses on the future. When you help your child (or anyone you are communicating with) focus on the future, you are helping them to discover how they can apply what is already inside of them to their challenges.
Now, you might not have a child so let’s take a look at how this can help you with communicating with friends. For another simple example, consider a situation where your friend and you are trying to decide what to do tomorrow. Which of the questions below would help you come up with more options?
- Do you want to go to the movies?
- What are some things we have never done?
If you ask about things that you have never done before you will generate a lot more options than if you just focus on movies.
Below I have listed a few more questions to get you started. Pick one question that you can ask someone today and see if it helps you start a powerful conversation.
- What do you want to accomplish?
- What do you love to do?
- What can you do differently?
- What goals do you have for next year?
- What makes you the most proud?
- What are your challenges?
- When will you know that you achieved your goal?
- What is getting in your way of reaching your goal?
- What is working well at school? with your friends? here at home?
- If you take this step, what will you do next?
- How can I help you?
- How can I get out of your way?
When asking these types of questions, be careful to actively listen to the answer – don’t assume that you know the answer ahead of time. Another tip that has been shared with me is to ask more “What” questions. They can make the answerer feel less intimidated than “Why” questions. Let me know how it goes when you try this strategy of asking insightful, open ended questions! What do you like about it? What feels uncomfortable?