Ask Better Questions

Ask better questions

“Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.”

– Tony Robbins

You might be familiar with Tony Robbins the American coach, author and motivational speaker who is known for his intense live events and personal development seminars. Admittedly I’m not Tony’s biggest fan, but I do like this quote of his about asking better questions. In my years of experience as a coach I’ve seen for myself the power of asking a good question – it’s also a huge part of my job and one of the reasons that my clients make the progress they do.

What are your questioning skills like? Do you find yourself asking a lot of “why” questions? Why did I do that, why won’t my customer pay their bill, why can’t I get the clients I really want, why does my child misbehave etc?

“Why” questions have their place, they invite analysis, but analysis isn’t always what we need to get the result we want. And often the situation isn’t helped by asking a why question because we may not have insight into the motivations or external circumstances behind it. I know one of the most useless, reflexive questions I am prone to asking is “why did you do that?” to my 9yo! 😉

What about closed questions – those that require just a yes or no answer? They often start with words like can, are, do/did, will/would, and so on. These questions give us very limited information because of their one word answers. Sometimes that’s all the information we need but other times we are looking for more. Closed questions don’t invite any further analysis, they’re almost like the opposite of a why question. Still, we will all be very familiar with them from both sides as they make up a large proportion of the questions we ask and answer on any given day.

When we want to move forward though, more often than not we will find better answers with a different approach, beyond the “why” and the closed question. The key is to find the right kind of question to get the answer you need.

The best questions are open, meaning they prompt a conversation because they can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. They open the door to thinking beyond your current limit. Usually open questions start with words like what, how, who, where, when etc.

When we start asking high quality questions, we can start to find high quality answers. Notice the difference in the following example:

Can I get my business working for me?


How can I get my business working for me?

Notice that the addition of just one word changes the question completely? The first example is a closed question with a yes or no answer. If the answer is no, you are stuck, yet if the answer is yes, you still haven’t got anything really useful.The second question however invites you to consider what that business might look like as well as the steps you might need to take to get there.

Which one do you think is more effective in moving you toward a goal?

Next time you have a problem to solve, try Q-storming, a technique developed by Dr Marilee Adams that involves brainstorming questions instead of solutions. Come up with as many questions as you can that might help you to your goal, then decide which ones will be most helpful. See how it changes your results!

Coaching is about levelling up your thinking with questions and conversations that expand your outlook, helping you to see past your current position to where you want to be and developing the path to get you there. Our Next Level Conversations provide a space for new questions, new ideas and new strategies to help you make your big vision a reality. We’d love to hear from you!

Until next time,

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