Aim to trigger thinking
Asking “powerful” questions tends to get a huge amount of airtime in coach training. Dozens of examples of subtly different types of questions for different purposes. No wonder our heads are struggling to figure out what to ask next.
I suggest you focus on just two things.
First, use pre-suppositions to trigger thinking.
Second, focus on observations that tell you whether your question made them think.
Remember I said that the core process of coaching was provoking thinking?
There are subtle signs on a person’s face that will tell you thinking is happening; very slight changes in skin tone and texture; minor muscular movement, almost too small to see; eye movements as they access different parts of their brain; changes in pupil dilation indicating a focal distance shift. And of course a slight pause while this change happens.
Don’t worry too much about exactly what you are seeing and how to interpret it, just start being aware of change. That will tell you something is happening.
Conversely, be aware when you get too ready and instant a response to a question.
This can be the indicator that your question did not provoke any thinking. You are just getting data.
You need to learn the signals that will tell you that someone is thinking; ask your question, then keep quiet.
Let it happen, wait, and listen to what they say next.
Don’t be afraid of silence. Remember, if they are thinking, they won’t be speaking. if you speak, you interrupt their thinking.
So hold the silence, for as long as it takes.
There are some specific questioning techniques you can learn in order to bypass the conscious awareness and tap into people’s subconscious. Making them think and respond even if they don’t want to!
And as a start point, a great question is not one that adheres to a particular clever structure. A great question is the one that in that moment, made the person THINK!
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