Effective Questions –
Staying on track and positive
one of those days?
When it feels
like you’ve endured one long meeting, after another and another?
And have you
noticed how often people get bogged down in the same issues, going over
the same ground you talked about the last time you got together?
Somewhere between your positive intentions and reaching
consensus on the best path forward, getting sucked into an unproductive,
time wasting swamp is way too easy.
it may be true that he who asks the questions controls the
conversation, it seems equally true that if
people can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry
about their answers.
Keeping your feet dry
wrong question and you can end up in a quagmire of justification and
finger pointing. We've all been there. So how do you keep
meetings positive and focused on the outcome?
When you hear yourself asking a
Why question like …
“Why did you do it
“Why didn’t they ask
“Why can’t marketing
“Why don’t you ….?”
While those questions may explain how you got where you are, they
also force people into defending their decisions. They dig in
rather than finding a path forward.
Instead use How
or What questions.
“How did you
“How is that
working for you?”
“What led you to
You can soften your
questions with “I’m curious,” “I’m wondering” or “Do you mind if I ask”
at the beginning. As in “Do you mind if I ask
how you decided to …?”
Answer a question with a question
What if you’re the target of a why
Neutralize and redirect
why questions with a question of your own. Ask ...
“How does answering that move us forward?” or
“Is this where we want to put our energy and attention?”
A ladder or a shovel?
more you challenge the soundness of someone’s position, the more they’ll
feel compelled to defend it. So use your questions like a ladder,
stretching up to something you can both agree on. Work out the details
only after you have agreement on a common purpose, or a shared
First, acknowledge their position by repeating
back their words, beliefs and emotions (pacing in
NLP terms.) Agree with them if you can.
“I sense you feel very strongly about ________.”
“You believe that ___________.”
“So it’s important for you that we ________”
Then shift the focus from the specifics of the
situation to a bigger picture of what they want to achieve. The
value or purpose behind their position will be a more inclusive
"How is that
important for you?" and "What
is important for you about that?"
"What will this do
for you or us?"
"What is your
"How does that
move us towards our outcome to ____?"
If you find
you’ve already been sucked into a swamp ...
Cut your losses with questions like these:
"What do we have to do to make things more the way we want them to
"Is there anything we can do about (the problem) right now?"
"If so, what is the first step we will take?"
"If not, how can we accept/make peace with what we cannot change?"
"If we have to go through this anyway, what can we learn/get out of
"What are we willing to stop doing or give up in order to have
conditions more the way we want them"
power of expectations
think a solution is unreachable, their efforts will reflect it!
Create positive expectations using so
far and yet.
As in “we haven’t figured it out,
we haven’t found the solution.”
forget, delete or distort information. And sometimes the players
change. So it's a good idea to keep a running visible record of
"We can _____ if you
_____ by this date."
A flip chart is an
easy way to record and transport agreements and commitments.
(Remember NASA’s extensive and costly search for the
best writing instrument for space travel? In the end they discovered ...
Keep the chart
current with when the commitments were actually met. And use them
when players change and/or delete or distort the facts.
Creating a path for change ...
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