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?