Asking the Right Questions

At a recent family gathering (yes, we know there’s a pandemic going on – there were only 8 of us and we took precautions) I noticed the youngest of my adult sisters asks a lot of questions.  While none were outrageously personal, her questions were probing, open-ended, and included “forbidden” topics such as religion.  As an extreme introvert who is overly cautious about being intrusive, I admired her creativity and courage.  Though the questions didn’t feel intrusive when she asked them, I might have deemed them as such had I considered asking them myself!

The experience has me pondering the art of question asking.  As a CliftonStrengths coach, question asking is a key tool in helping clients visualize where their natural talents are already at work contributing to success and how to intentionally recreate similar successes thereby turning talents into strengths.  Accompanying clients on the journey to goal setting and refinement, determining how to apply talents and strengths to the goal, and tracking success involves asking the right questions.   Put a group of CliftonStrength coaches in a room together (even a remote room) and soon they’ll be sharing question ideas!

In this coaching role I became more comfortable with asking questions when I realized that the individuals and teams I coach expect, want and need me to ask probing questions!  The right questions create space for people to share who they are.  The right questions offer opportunity to clarify and own intent and motivation.  The right questions highlight success and surface aspirations while they also illuminate challenges, fears and barriers.   Maybe this is what my sister already knows – that people actually like to be asked questions!  In fact, studies have shown this to be the case, especially when the person asking is a good listener who asks relevant follow up questions.

Now the main challenge is not whether to whether to ask questions, but rather how to ask the right questions!  As I do become more courageous, my Relator, Individualization and Connectedness Strengths balance that boldness with thoughtful sensitivity for people as they grow.