1. Powerful questions typically focus more on the person you’re talking to than on the situation you’re talking about.
They cut through the surface chatter of logistics and details to zero in on the deeper matters that lie beneath.
For example, “What do you really want here?” “What’s important about this?” “What’s the deep truth you need to hang onto as you look at this?”
2. Powerful questions are open-ended, and typically begin with the interrogative “What.”
“What” questions tend to target the heart and the imagination. By contrast, “Why” questions tend to take people into their heads and to trigger analysis.
For example, if I ask, “Why are you so hard on yourself?” the question will take the person into her head to analyze the problem and try to give me an answer.
But if I ask, “What do you fear would happen if you stopped being so hard on yourself?” the question will take her into her heart to listen to what’s happening there.
3. Powerful questions always come from a place of authentic, open curiosity.
They don’t try to lead someone to any predetermined conclusion; rather, they inspire the other person’s own process of discovery.
So powerful questions rarely begin with phrases such as, “Shouldn’t you just … ,” or “Don’t you think you ought to … .” Those aren’t questions; they’re opinions phrased as questions.
4. Very often, the most powerful question is the “dumb” question, the question that makes no assumptions.
“What is it to be free?” “What is contentment?” “How will you know when you’re fulfilled?”
Notice that questions like these cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no.” They invite exploration. Asking a powerful question is a more powerful way to help the people you lead and the people in your life become “unstuck,” find new wisdom, connect personally with God and choose the best path forward. It’s also a powerful way to help yourself, too.
To that end, here are a handful of powerful questions for you to ponder.
Don’t try to tackle them all at once. Rather, choose the one that resonates most with you, and simply ponder it for the next few weeks. As you feel inclined, journal your thoughts on it and invite God to speak to you about it. Notice what happens.
- What fulfills you?
- Where are you holding yourself back?
- What if there was no where to go and nothing to prove? What would you do then?
- Who are you becoming?
- What’s missing?