Secrets to crafting transformational questions
We all inwardly long for deeper, more meaningful connections. One of the most effective paths to deeper connections is through the questions we ask. But, how do we ask questions that take us past the surface and help form those real relationships? What are some of the proven techniques for crafting more significant or transformational questions?
One of the first steps is to ask open-ended questions rather than closed-ended questions. A question that is closed-ended can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. For instance, if you ask, “Hey, are you ready to move to New York?” Someone may answer ‘yes’ or ‘no;’ and while these types of questions are fine for casual conversations, they really don’t cause a person to go deeper.
We are not just hoping for an autopilot answer. We want to tap into their purpose, dreams, passions and values. In order for a question to do this, it has to be a different class of question. It has to be open-ended. A question that is open-ended invites a person to reflect. Reflection is key and it is the missing muscle in most of us. When a person says “I never thought about that” or “I never thought about that question in the way that you asked it,” you’ve asked a really great question. Here’s another way we could have asked the question above. “What are you moving towards in your life as you move to New York?” This kind of open-ended question actually gets to the purpose of the move. New York is a magnet for people with purpose. This question invites them to articulate that purpose before they travel.
The key is to ask questions that get to the meaning and cause people to think in ways they haven’t before. Here are some other examples of powerful open-ended questions:
Instead of asking “Are you having a good day?” Ask “What happened today that really stood out for you?”or”What decisions did you make today that you’re really proud of?” or “Who did you meet today that really impacted or inspired you?”
These kinds of questions, probe beyond what people expect, and by design, can knock them off center a bit. They immediately begin to realize that you’re actually interested, causing them to think about what they may have been discussing on autopilot. Open-ended questions are definitely one of your ‘must have tools’ as you begin to craft questions.
Notice that all the questions above started with ‘what’ and not ‘why’. I recommend that you don’t start a question with ‘why’. For instance, “Now, why would you do that?” , “Why don’t you just …?” or “Why didn’t you…?”
“Why?” you may ask …
Starting questions with ‘why’ can cause people to feel as though they’re being challenged or accused. It can unintentionally put them on the defensive as you are asking them to justify their choices.
Alternatively, you can change the ‘why’ to a ‘what’. For example: “What caused you to make that decision?” Simply shifting from ‘why’ to ‘what’ steers the conversation away from a defensive space into a safe place where they can explore options without judgement.
Finally, be curious. If you come into a conversation assuming nothing, creativity can be released. Come to just discover and explore with the person you are talking with. Engage the conversation with curiosity and interest as you partnering with them. When you approach a person or conversation with curiosity, you’re going to find that creativity flows more naturally and transformation has opportunity to occur.
So, to conclude, here are the three main secrets to crafting more transformational questions:
1. Ask open-ended questions.
2. Avoid starting a question with ‘why?’
3. Be curious.
Try these approaches to open people up to transformation.
I hope that these quick insights help you to craft more powerful questions and that transformation will happen to you and through you.