The Secret Power of Questions
The power of questions is their ability to invite response. The danger is it might be damaging.
‘Yes’ or ‘no’ questions shackle people with assumptions and judgments.
- Don’t you agree?
- Is that the only solution?
- Could you think of another option?
The secret power of questions:
#1. Questions make statements.
“Are you crazy?” really means, “You’re crazy.”
“Have you thought about this?” really means, “You need to think about this.”
#2. Questions strengthen connections.
What were some tipping points in your life?
Who saw something in you that you didn’t see in yourself? What did they see?
#3. Questions require thinking.
- How would you solve this situation?
- What are some options to move the agenda forward?
- What else might we try?
#4. Questions demonstrate respect.
How did you get good at this?
What factors played a role in this great decision?
#5. Questions increase pain.
“How is your relationship with the boss?” increases pain when relationships are pained.
“How did your project go?” is uncomfortable when things went wrong.
“What do you think we should do?” creates stress when options are unclear.
Some pain is useful.
Sorrow comes before solution.
Hurt comes before healing.
Questions poke pain-points like statements can’t.
You can’t find solutions when avoiding pain but discomfort is not the problem.
Pain distracts people from real issues.
Statement: “You screwed up,” invites excuse making. Question: “What would you like to do to fix this?” assigns responsibility.
Statement: “You made a mistake,” invites defensiveness. “If you did this again, what would you do differently?” invites exploration.
Note: Direct confrontation may be appropriate when people are belligerent. Direct statements may create clarity.
Questions expose real issues.
- What assumptions caused this situation?
- How did we get here?
When you know the heart of the matter, don’t let hot emotion distract you. Increase useful discomfort with benevolent questions.
How might leaders leverage the power of questions?
What do leaders do to sabotage the positive power of questions?
Questions Proactive People Ask
12 Questions Guaranteed to Energize People
The Power of Asking Questions: 7 Ways Questions are More Powerful Than Answers
Ask the person:
1. What questions do you think need to be addressed to solve this problem?
2. What questions do we need to discuss to learn from this situation?
3. What questions would help us look at this issue from different points of view?
4. What’s the most important question we need to answer to move forward?
Don’t lead the witness with questions that you already have an answer.
Thanks Paul. It’s useful to put power in the hands of others. It’s also revealing.
Great post, Dan! We should remember that it takes courage and humility to invite responses. When “leaders” choose to demean or solicit yes/no answers, they indicate that they really don’t have an open door or an open mind. Since they can’t stand the answer, they don’t ask the question. The questions we ask — or don’t ask — reveal a lot about us!
Thanks Paul. Yes, we say a lot about ourselves when we ask questions. It’s good to reflect on this idea – what do my questions say about me?
What assumptions caused this situation is a great question that requires thought and self awareness/reflection. Thank you!
Thanks Ann. My pleasure.
I also find that people are often slightly startled by open-ended questions when they expect to be able to give a “canned” or routine reply. Then they usually relax and enjoy formulating a cogent reply.