There are no fixed, black-and-white rules that determine that one question is good and another is lousy. For example: “Why?” can be a wonderful question. It can be an unexpectedly insightful question that penetrates to the core of the issue. But “Why?” can also be a terrible question. It can come across as cynical, critical, and reproachful—especially when asked of a subordinate or a child.
Nonetheless, power questions have certain characteristics. They may embody one or more of the following characteristics.
Power questions are questions that:
- Dig under the surface to uncover root causes and underlying causes
- Help clarify the issues and focus the conversation
- Create a common vocabulary and a common understanding of the situation
- Uncover other peoples’ dreams, ambitions, and aspirations
- Help you understand and connect with others’ most important priorities and needs
- Push people to see their own experiences and issues from a new perspective
- Test for alignment and consistency
- Help the other person reach his or her own conclusions
- Reframe the problem
- Create learning
- Inspire commitment
Generally, open-ended questions are more fruitfull then closed-ended questions. But SOMETIMES you need a closed-ended questions. As in, “Is it a Yes or a No?”!
Finally, good questions are authentic and sincere. They don’t manipulate. They are not cynical or sarcastic.
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