You know how some people ask questions that allow you to open up and other people ask questions that seem to close you down? Have you ever wondered why that is? There's a three-letter word at the start of questions that drives us human beings crazy: Why.
Why's ability to irritate was abundantly clear when my two-year-olds played it on repeat. But it wasn't until I went to leadership coaching school that I understood why you shouldn't use the word why...at least not when you're asking people questions.
Consider how these two questions would land on you:
Why do you want to choose path A instead of path B?
What would be different if you chose path A instead of path B?
The first very subtly implies that you want to choose the wrong path and has the possibility of putting you on the defensive. The second puts your mind on an exploration of both paths. It's an expansive question that helps you to be curious about your own choice.
Why does that matter to you? What about that matters to you?
Again, the why question can almost land as an accusation. The what question helps you explain the subtleties of your thinking to the listener.
Whether you're a parent, a student, a boss, a mentor or a friend, try taking why out of your questions.
Why didn't you meet that deadline? How could you have met that deadline?
Why don't you see any other options? How could you see other options?
Why did you do it like that? Walk me through your thought process.
Asking non-why questions can take a lot of work at first. I never realized how many whyquestions I threw at people. But after years of practice, I find that I automatically restructure any why questions that try to sneak into my conversations.
Give it a try in your next conversation and see what opens up!
Hungry for more expansive questions?
Starting July 1, we'll re-run our popular 30-day Journaling Challenge on Facebook with questions like, "What bridge are you crossing right now?" "How can you tap into your own expansiveness?" and "What would it take for you to step out of your comfort zone."
If you're more tactile, pick up our postcard set with the same questions. Check them out on our Etsy account. They make a great gift for yourself or for someone you love who's going through a transition.