Don’t ask why…

Screen Shot 2013-09-21 at 9.19.14 PMWhat’s the reason for that? I hear you say. Because quite often you are better to ask pre-suppositional  questions as opposed to accusatory  ones.

The types of questions you ask always depends on the circumstance and your intention. I have found that to have a good set of pre-suppositional questions in my toolkit is invaluable.  The reason I favour this type of question is because the ‘why’ question has a negative connotation, it feels confrontational.

When we are coaching either in a professional context or in the work place, we want to help the coachee to access their own resources. You’re going to have a better chance of doing that if you ask a pre-suppositional question as opposed to a negative ‘why’ question.

Pre-suppositional questions are open-ended, leading questions that communicate a belief or expectation. They ask about the future using language that pre-supposes positive change. They are questions that shape cognitions so that people can see change is happening or has already occurred.  They create a resourceful mood and help develop new views of the situation.

For example: “When you met this problem successfully before, what was the result?” This pre-supposes that the problem has been met before and resolved.  The coachee then thinks about those resolutions, drawing on their own resources and possibly resolving  their own problem.   That’s coaching.  Contrast this to “Why is there a problem? ” You can picture the blank face of the coachee as they struggle to come up with a useful response.

Below I’ve listed some ‘why’ questions and the pre-suppositional version. Say the question out loud and notice the difference.  The Presuppositional version is so much more proactive.  See if you can go a week without asking a ‘why’ question and note the difference.

Why Question Pre-suppositional Question
Why do you have a problem with your job? What job challenges are you facing?
Why is there a problem? When you met this problem successfully before, what was the result?
Why haven’t you given this issue some thought? What is your best thinking about this issue?
Why can’t you accomplish this? How do you account for not being able to accomplish this?
Why didn’t you respond to this issue? How have you responded to this issue?
Why don’t you have time to achieve this? How much time do you have to achieve this?
Why is this personally challenging? What do you find personally challenging about leading this effort, given the results you have to date?

Categories: Coaching

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