02 October, 2012

Asking good questions

I've blogged a little bit about good questions before, but mostly about asking good questions of missionaries.

Today I've been learning about asking good questions at the three day workshop I'm attending, but I've realised that I haven't really explained "coaching".

The given definition is this:
"Coaching is an on-going intentional conversation that empowers a person or group to fully live out God's calling." — Keith E. Webb.
It is basically a bit like mentoring, except that perhaps there is more emphasis on asking questions to help the person discover the answers for themselves rather than to give them advice or help.

And even if I don't end up doing any formal "coaching", the skills we're learning will be useful in all sorts of relationships and conversations that I have. Most close to home would be in parenting. Learning how to have better conversations with my boys to help them discover the answers to their own problems and situations will help us tremendously, I predict.

So a large portion of today's teaching and learning was about questions. But I'm still finding that I don't always ask good questions, I'm often ending up with closed questions. We've been provided with lots of example questions, but unless I personalise them and use my own words those questions sound very plastic and contrived.

For example I would never say:
"What are the relational dynamics in this situation?"
"What are key points in understanding the situation?"
So  I thought I might have a go at writing some good questions that might be more natural for me.

What do you think of these? (I'm thinking, not of a formal coaching situation, but a good, deep conversation with someone.)
  • What's on your heart?
  • Is there something you've been struggling with recently?
  • What other factors are in play here? 
  • How does your personality influence this situation?
  • How do you think various cultural factors impact this?
  • What might God's perspective be on this?
  • Why do you think that person responded to you like that?
  • How is this affecting your family?
What do you think? Are these questions that might help you think more deeply? There are an infinite number of questions out there, depending on the topic. Can you think of some more that are good questions that help others discover things about a situation they are struggling with?

I tend to ask my kids poor questions, especially when they first come home from school.
This is a doozy: "Did you have a good day?" It is really a throw-away line and it rarely elicits an answer. They just aren't ready to talk with me much when they first come into the house. So perhaps I should wait a bit before I start asking any hard questions. 

I asked each of them tonight (on the phone, because I'm still not home): can you give me three highlights from your day. For our eldest I also asked him for a lowlight. To my surprise, they all answered my question. A colleague today told me they ask these questions each day while eating dinner with their kids. I think that's a great idea. Now I just need to implement it. We might find out more about our kids' days than we've done in the past!

I need to get myself to bed now. My roommate has a nasty cold, so I'm hoping that I don't get it from her and take it home to everyone. There isn't much I can do about it. I've already shared a room with her for the night and there aren't any spare rooms I can shift into for tonight anyway.

Tomorrow evening I get to reverse the train journey I did yesterday morning. Probably with almost as many people. Though I think that 9pm is more of a peak hour than 5pm is, I guess I'll be able to tell you about that from first hand experience.


OliveTree said...

Wow, it sounds like you went to a really great workshop. I love the technique of asking questions. We ask our kids almost every day what was the high point of their day, Never thought of asking for the low point.

I often ask people that I meet with for accountability or encouragement, "What are three things you're thankful for, and what are three things that concern you?"

Wendy said...

That's a good habit, OliveTree. I need to get into better habits with questions, especially with my kids.