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In my work as a coach I use many different tools and techniques with my clients. One of the most important tools of my trade is ‘questions’. Our brains love questions, they work hard to solve the most difficult questions and reward us with helping us to find the self awareness and the answers we may be looking for. They also help to move us forward if we are feeling stuck in our lives. Often clients come to coaching sessions with statements about themselves firmly fixed in their heads.  They believe that they cannot do certain things and that they can’t change no matter how hard they try. By framing problems as questions it is possible to boost your effectiveness and problem solving instead of merely making a statement about your situation, you can actually move forward.

There are ways of asking questions that can open up your thinking, by asking open questions for example, if you wanted to lose weight, you might say to yourself “I can’t lose weight,” and think about the negative reasons you want to lose weight and what has happened in the past when you have tried to lose weight.  However, if you ask yourself, “What will I gain from losing weight?” You may be more inclined to be more future focussed. This question may also help you to move into the realms of possibilities about the future and what you want for yourself, instead of focussing on the past and what has kept you from losing weight. You start to focus on the future and the vision you have created for yourself.

‘Why’ questions can be negative, they can keep you small, drag you back and keep you locked in the problem. “Why do I hate exercising?” “Why can’t I get promotion?” Asking questions in this way assumes that there is something for you to do that you feel that you can’t do. This type of question may help to confirm your lack of self-esteem and can undermine confidence and you may even start to develop other negative thoughts…does my bum look big in this!  But ‘why’ questions can be helpful for focusing on a problem.  The 5 Whys technique is used for focusing on a problem and drilling down until you get the root of the problem. This can be beneficial for a problem at work such as a when something is not working or technical problem. Basically, you keep asking ‘why’ until you get to the root of the problem.

 If you want to focus on the solution ask open questions and use what, when, where, who and how. A question that I often ask my clients is “What do you want?” Now you may think that this is a simple enough question on the surface, but oh my goodness! This simple little question can cause people to stop in their tracks, it really makes them think about what they actually want.  I often following this up with, “When do you want it by?” “Where will it be”, “Who can help you?” and “How will you do it?” These questions can really help to move you forward to where you want to be.

Making questions a habit and developing questioning skills with yourself and others is a really useful tool to develop thinking and open up your creative mind. Learn to develop questions as a way of life, practice, keep a note book and write down ideas that appeal to you, develop your questioning style and see what happens.


Gillian Kitchen  MA, ILM, is a personal & leadership coach. 

























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