How to Solve Problems using Empowering Questions
Questions are the answers. Questions determine the focus of our perceptions. How you word your questions play a major role in whether you are moving in the direction of your outcome or digging deeper into the problem.
If you ask a question, “Why can’t I do this?”, it implies that
(a) there is something to be done
(b) you can’t do it
So, in order to answer your question, your brain begins to search for all the reasons why you cannot do it. The questions imply the negative.
Alternatively, asking yourself, “How can I do this so as to make it work?”, implies that
(a) it can work
(b) there are number of ways to make it work
(c) I can make it work, it is just a matter of picking the right way
Your mind now uses the embedded implication in your question and searches for how to make things work. The questions imply the positive.
Some examples of unresourceful questions are:
- Why does this always happen to me?
- Why don’t I like myself?
- Why can’t I ever get along with my partner?
- Why doesn’t my partner love me?
- Why can’t my partner be more like X?
Now, ask yourself a new question:
How can I ask this in a way that points towards the positive?
Ask question now that imply the positive, such as:
- What is the most elegant way I can solve this problem?
- How many different ways of solving this problem can I come up with?
- How can I most easily stop doing ____?
- How can get along better with my partner?
- What are the ways my partner does love me?
- What good qualities does my partner have?
- What is the most useful question I can ask right now?
- What question can I ask that will best help my partner?
These questions put you in a more resourceful state. If you are not happy with the answer, ask until you are or ask another question. Your brain will keep searching until a useful answer has been found.
What if questions
Einstein used to ask such questions himself.
Think of a situation where you are feeling stuck and ask:
- What would happen if this was not a problem anymore?
- If I knew that there was a simple solution, what would it be?
- Why haven’t I thought of it yet?
- If I made an astounding breakthrough in this area what would it be?
Outcome thinking questions and Blaming questions
Where am I now?
What do I want?
How do I get from where I am to where I want to be?
Who’s to blame?
Who’s going to fix it?
‘How’ vs ‘Why’ questions
‘How’ questions are more useful than ‘why’ in problem solving.
Questions that get the structure of the problem
How has this problem been maintained?
How has the the way the solution has been set up contributed to this problem?
How can I solve this problem?
Why is this a problem?
Why can’t I solve it?
Possibilities vs Necessities
Possibilities uncover what you can do about a situation. Necessities highlight what you can’t do about a situation
Questions to uncover possibilities
What is possible?
What would have to happen for this to be possible?
How could I make this possible?
What do I have to do?
What is not possible here?
Failure vs Feedback Questions
What are my results so far?
What have I learned from them?
What am I going to do differently as a result of that feedback?
What feedback will let me know that I have succeeded?
Questions about failure
Why have I failed?
How badly did I fail?
Curiosity vs Assumption
Questions to uncover assumptions
What are you assuming about the problem?
What are you assuming about the people involved?
What has to be true for this to be a problem?
Exploring your ‘Truth’
Think of something about your partner that you think is true. In this case, pick something negative eg ‘My partner never listens to me”. “My partner is stubborn”.
- Is it true?
Most people answer this question from their perspective and therefore it is very true for them.
- Can you really know that it’s true?
This is where people start to doubt the validity of their assumptions.
- How do you reach when you think that thought/tell yourself that story?
This question examines the negative consequences of holding on to their version of the ‘truth’.
- What would you be without that thought/story?
Here people explore their reality without their perception of the ‘truth’ and realize it frees them not to hold on to it anymore. Therefore they are willing to let go of it.
- Loving What Is, Katie Byron
- The NLP Workbook, Joseph O’ Connor