(This information is based on the work of Parker Palmer, John Morefield, and Marcy Jackson, and inspired by the work of Parker J. Palmer and Center for Courage & Renewal . The information was written by Susan Kaplan, M.S.W. )
(Part 1 described the value of open and honest questions.)
Framing Open & Honest Questions
1. The best single mark of an open, honest question is that the questioner could not possibly anticipate the answer to it.
What surprises you? What moves or touches you about this? What inspires you? What was easy? What was hard?
2. Ask questions that aim at helping the person rather than satisfying your curiosity. Ask questions directed to the person as well as to the problem – about feelings as well as facts.
Have you ever had an experience that felt like your current dilemma? Did you learn anything from that prior experience that feels useful to you now? How do you feel about the experience you just described?
3. Stay with the person’s language – use words the person is using not what you think they might or should be feeling.
You said this was an impossible situation – could you say more about what this means to you? What do you mean when you said you felt frustrated? as opposed to Don’t you ever feel angry?
4. Formulate questions that are brief and to the point rather than larding them with background considerations and rationale.
What were your expectations or hopes?
5. Trust your own intuition, even if your instincts seem off the wall. Listen deeply to the story and allow questions to come from your heart rather than your head.
6. Avoid long storytelling or speech making that may draw attention to yourself.
7. Consider waiting to ask a question if you’re not sure what type of question it is. If it keeps coming back to you, see if you can re-frame it into an open ended question.
8. The best questions are simple.
How does this work for you? What questions do you have? What is the hardest aspect of this situation? What is the easiest aspect of this situation?
9. Avoid questions with right/wrong answers.
Consider re-framing Don’t you think it would be helpful to talk to her? to What has been most helpful? Least helpful?
10. Use images or metaphors that the person might relate to so as to open things up in ways that more direct questions do not.
If you were writing a book about this experience, how would you name this chapter? If you were using a roadmap to navigate this issue, what would be on your map – the rest stops, the destinations, the detours?
11. Know when to use open & honest questions. These questions are not appropriate for all situations. There is a time to give information, to make a decision and to share your own opinion and experience.
For many related, free online resources, see the following Free Management Library’s topics:
- All About Personal and Professional Coaching
- Skills in Questioning
- LinkedIn Discussion Group about “Coaching for Everyone”