(This is part 2 of a 4 part series on Coaching Questions. Part 1 was about leading questions.)
Now that you’re all high fiving yourself and confident that you know what leading questions are, and you’re feeling like Inspector Clouseau with your ability to recognize when you’re leaving that trail of bread crumbs for your clients; we’re going to toss out some additional pearls of wisdom for you if you revert back to Jack McCoy or Perry Mason. (Has anyone ever really found a pearl in an oyster?… just curious but let’s not get sidetracked here.)
Let’s say that you blurt out a leading question. It just comes out of your mouth and you can’t get it back. The leading question rolls off your tongue as effortless as Michael Phelps collecting Gold Medals. Not to worry we’ve got suggestions.
One great way to make leading questions, well, less leading is to do what we like to call “play the multiple choice game.” You have to think quick on your feet, and you have to add other options to the one you just said – but it will save you from having your own agenda. The key is to add the other options to the existing question – not turn it into two questions – that would be stacking.
So in the heat of the container of space (more on this on another day….seriously can you imagine either one of us getting all life coachy and calling anything a container of space?) you have created – you actually state a leading question… ”What emotion are you experiencing…irritation?” (damn that was leading – you were the one labeling an emotion and that, my friends, is leading the client to the way you are viewing the situation) just throw on a bunch more options to the end: sad, frustrated, excited, angry, crushed, rejected or what?” (We love the or what!)
Now the client has choices, the client can pick one to respond to and isn’t just going with being irritated, although they may be. (And truth be told, you may be too since you asked a leading question.)
Bottom line the question now becomes: What emotion are you experiencing…irritation, sadness, excitement, rejection or what else? Now it’s time for another Hail Mary pass to get out of the 100% leading question mode. Think of it as a plot twist or the 180-degree spin. Here is how it works. Let’s say the question is coming out of your mouth: ”If you become a homeowner and live in the country, how much are you going to want to mow the lawn and do all those other property owner requirements.”
Holy smokes – it is leading – so quickly add an ‘or’ and then add the opposite…. ”Or will this be the absolute bliss like freedom you’ve been looking for.” True confession – even the “or” is still leading – but at least now there is a broader option for the client to go. It’s a bit grayer for the client to have a full range to get all in deep thought about. The key is to avoid leading questions.
One way to even prevent the default leading question is to keep your questions short and broad. (Think Cartman from South Park or perhaps Barney Rubble…you get the point.) What we mean by this is that the more detail you put in a question – the more limiting the question becomes. And when you put in detail you might inadvertently be guiding the direction.
Too much detail: So what are some options to be able to communicate better with your brother when it comes to his relationship with your mom?
Short and broad: What are some options?
This restated question allows there to be options about ANYTHING that the client might be thinking with the new awareness he is experiencing (insert choirs of angels and a perfect harmonic “aaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”) and that wide open space allows for many possibilities.
While some questions require context — Think of it like a Google search. If you type in more detail the less results you will get. Type in, with quotes: “blue underwear” and you will get lots of options for exploration…type in: “blue underwear on a Monday rainy afternoon while eating donuts” (we checked 401,000 vs zero) And thus the more details in the question, the more you limit the results.
Next up in our 4 part series is part 3 and it is time to get out the surgeon gloves…..the probing question. You won’t want to miss it – we go deep.
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