A Better Class Of Question

A few years ago, I found I had been chasing my tail. I thought that asking myself questions was likely to be helpful, as I was on a path of discovery. I began asking myself why did that happen? Why do you do that (not so great) thing?

I discovered it was impossible to respond adequately to these why questions. I only succeeded in keeping myself on edge. I was creating uncertainty with my sense of self.

Children ask, ‘Why are you so sad? Why is the sky blue?’ Why, why, why, and as parents and caretakers, we do our best to come up with a response. However, this rarely leads to conversations or explorations.

In asking ‘why’, I discovered it was impossible to come up with a response which satisfied me or enabled me to gain a sense of mastery of what I was learning. I worked out that ‘why’ demands an answer and an answer assumes knowledge. Yet this was what I was seeking.

I decided to ask myself a better class of question – questions which began with ‘how’ and ‘what’.

Questions where it is possible to explore options, to tap into experience, expertise or something new and fresh and to come up with a response for reflection or action.

Some examples of these questions are: How might I approach this tricky situation so we gain a positive outcome? What might I bring to this situation to enable progress?

leadership questions

‘Why’ questions tend to unravel and undo what has been done. ‘How’ and ‘what’ questions tend to warm up the participant to what is in front of them to encourage reflection and future orientation.

Here are some questions I find helpful with clients:

  • How might you approach this so it is less stressful for you?
  • What are other options you might consider?
  • What is the outcome you want from tackling this issue?
  • How would you measure success? (What would you see? What would be happening?)
  • Who is the best person/people for you to discuss this with?

What are the questions you are asking yourself as you develop your capacities to achieve what you want in your life and work?

© Diana Jones

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