Yesterday we went out with friends that we haven’t seen for a long time. The night before, I was wondering about all the questions I’d like to ask them—how can we cover the last six months in an evening? I knew one of them had crossed the Atlantic on a sailboat; the other had arrived at a decision to stay at the job she was doing, although she was quite upset about it the last time we had spoken. They were organizing their wedding, and there were so many other everyday bits and pieces that would be great to hear about.
Similarly, they had their own questions about us: my challenges with becoming an entrepreneur, my kids and other stuff. I decided to settle with two questions and see how the evening went. Well, we never got to my second question at all, but the conversation I started with my first one became unique and meaningful; much more than the usual friends-out chat.
I work with questions as a coach and trainer. Even my blog posts are full of them. I’m ”trained” to use open questions and questions that get to the root of the issue quickly. This was the first time, though, that I came prepared with questions for a casual friends-get-together-by-some-tapas conversation. The reward I received for giving our evening some thought beforehand proved the power of questions to me yet again.
I regard questions to be the best learning tools. A good question can start me on a new journey, can liberate me from my present box of thinking and inspire me to continue my search.
What’s a good question like? A good question has a good answer. A good question opens doors in you and puts you in the thinking, reflecting and conscious mode. A good question can be upsetting, even shocking. A good question is with you for days and keeps coming back to your thoughts. Can you recall any good questions that you were asked? What effect did they have on your life?
Now look around you—can you pass on this experience and give someone a good question? Who could you help with a good question and what would it need to be about?
Pointing out a new perspective? – Let’s look at this situation from someone else’s point of view! How can this shift in perspective change the situation or the person involved?
Giving alternatives that are not in her / his scope of thinking? – Let’s forget about the present box you seem to believe you’re in! How can this box enlarge or change shape?
Reflecting back her / his words or behaviour? – Listen attentively and repeat the same sentences you’ve heard. How does it feel to hear your own words? Mimic the behaviour! What can you learn from seeing your non-verbal communication?
Identifying all the good in life? – Point the attention to abundance, love and joy that tend to hide away in difficult times. What can you be grateful for in this moment?
Inspiring her / him to develop an idea further? – Ideas are cheap. How can you elaborate this intuitive thought into a concept? How about a plan?
Easing a process with a kickstart? – OK, you’re blocked. Let’s look at your obstacles on all levels: physical, mental, emotional, virtual. What holds you back really? How can you work around it?
Making healthy choices in life? – This is the place to be careful with your “whys.” Pointing out an unhealthy habit with a question starting with “why” can easily be received as an accusation. Be gentle and offer help. What can we do together to enable you to create a healthier lifestyle?
Helping to gather more information to see all aspects of the situation? – Is it possible that you missed something? How can you reveal the hidden factors?
Play with questions and jot them (and their answers) down to save them for later! They’re door-openers and the deepness of the responses they may generate can surprise you. Also, invite others to pose you questions they have long wanted to know. Question and be open to being questioned. It helps you to stay vigorous.
Can you think of any other powerful, transformative question you did or would use? If so add them to the Comments below.
Orsolya Hernold is the writer of orzola.org, a blog dedicated to personal growth by journaling. Orsolya offers topics with powerful questions to explore, online courses, and printed journals to help readers to create the habit of journaling. Follow her by subscribing at orzola.org, or on twitter.