What makes a question a powerful question?
Is there such a thing as a “magic question”?
Arguably some questions are more powerful than others. And some questions can feel like they magically shift a person’s mindset, or – abracadabra – open up a new perspective.
If you ask me, no question is magic in itself, but every question can be super powerful if offered at the right time and in the right way.
To some extent we can learn when and how to offer the right question. Some of it will remain a matter of intuition. And sometimes the power a question holds is just super random.
For example, one of the most powerful questions I ever asked in a coaching session was a genuine “How are you?”, to which my client broke into several minutes of tears. It had been some time since someone asked the question in a way as if they really wanted to hear the answer. I couldn’t have known that. It wasn’t even a shot in the dark. It was just being genuinely curious and holding a space in which someone can feel safe and brave enough to be real and honest.
A more recent example of a powerful question was during a recent coaching supervision demo, during which my client reflected on a long standing coaching relationship with a leader in an organisation. Long story short: At some point I asked “Does he remind you of someone?” It was just a hunch based loosely on psychodynamic theory, which suggests that other significant relationships (especially those with our primary caregivers) can have great influence on the way we relate to others. I didn’t have any expectation as to where the question might lead or whether it would even be helpful, to which my client then shared that this client reminded him of the father he wished he had. What a powerful realisation, which offered clarity on a range of dynamics that had emerged between this coach and their client.
Contrast this to a beautiful that I’ve picked up from my colleague and fellow podcast host Dr. Gary Crotaz, who routinely asks both his coaching clients and podcast guests: “Where in your story do we need to begin in order to understand the person you are today?”. That one’s a carefully constructed question, and it would be difficult to just move on from it. It’s a big question, and there’s a clear agenda behind it: To open up something that is quite core to a person, and to invite a story. As powerful as it is, that’s not the kind of question I’m talking about. And while such carefully constructed questions can indeed be really powerful, and it’s helpful to have a whole list in your bag for when you might need them, in my experience the best questions are often really simple.
Which makes me wonder: What are some of your favourite questions – big or small?
Next event: Mark Walsh in the Coaching Lab!!
I am more than excited to welcome “Mr Embodiment” Mark Walsh into our Coaching Lab on the 2nd January. We’ll start 2024 off with a bang, as Mark is not only a top notch human being, but also trained thousands of coaches in working with the body. He’s among many other things an Aikido black belt, and I really appreciate his down-to-earth genuinely human way of expressing himself. It’s a real privilege to be able to be a fly on the wall for this session and I hope you can join us for it!
We still offer individual tickets via MeetUp and Eventbrite, or you can check out our membership options to gain access to the recordings.
Also featuring in 2024 are Alcohol-free coaching pioneer Andy Ramage as well as the deeply inspiring, and rather famous, Steve March. Sign up to the Coaching Lab mailing list if you wanted to stay up to date with the Lab.
New content: Constructivism – The root of all coaching?
For the latest episode of Coaching Uncaged by Animas I got to talk to Dr. Jelena Pavlovic, author of Coaching Psychology: Constructivist Approaches (Routledge, 2021), and Jelena took us on a tour through constructivism, laid out how constructivism sits at the root of all coaching, and offered a bunch of practical examples of how this may look like. As always, you can watch or listen to this episode.