Blog Writing

Asking Questions For A Change: Part IV of the Questions Series

“A person needs new experiences. They jar something deep inside, allowing him to grow. Without change something sleeps inside us and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.” (Dune)

There are times when we write or ask questions without any expectation of getting an answer.

These questions are asked with a different intention in mind: to expose the reader to a new idea, to create an emotional shift, or to jar something deep inside.

Powerful Coaching Questions

These are the type of questions that coaches tend to use: questions that might help someone

  • reframe a problem, so they see it in a different way
  • access positive states or
  • tap into their inner resources

These powerful questions have certain recognisable characteristics. You’d expect to find:

  • open questions, starting with a ‘what’ or a ‘how’ (and avoiding a ‘why’)
  • questions that only the client / reader can answer: the person asking genuinely doesn’t know the answer
  • questions that are based on positive presuppositions

A presupposition is something you hold to be true. Something that underpins the question. The question doesn’t make sense without the presupposition.

For example, if I ask:

What inner resources will you draw upon to achieve your writing goals?

I’m presupposing that:

  • You have the inner resources that will help you
  • You know what they are
  • You know how to access them
  • I don’t know what they are, but I believe / know that you do
  • My question might help you to tap into them

Some Questions To Get You Thinking About Questions

Have a look at these questions… ask yourself the questions and notice the different reaction you get inside.

1. What can you learn from this post?
2. Why have you learned from this post?
3. What have you learned from this post?
4. What 5 things have you learned from this post?
5. What was the most surprising thing you learnt from this post?

You’ll have your own reactions and responses. Some things to flag up:

They all presuppose that you can learn something from this experience. The first presupposes that you haven’t learned your lesson yet… (maybe implying a negative). Question 2 uses ‘why’ which tends to throw us backwards to justify or defend our position. Best used with care.

Questions 3 - 5 open things up for a conversation by leading with an open ‘what’, presupposing you’ve already learned interesting things (and that you might want share them). Question 3 is very open but a little vague; there’s no hook to hang it on. Questions 4 and 5 get our mind racing to find the answer: to construct a list of five, or to filter the learning for the most surprising thing.

What kind of reaction do you notice when you run the questions? Where do you notice the reaction: in your mind, in your stomach, in the back of your head?

Asking A Question For A Change

It won’t surprise you that I’m going to bring this back to purpose. Here are some things to think about if your purpose is to ask a question that will lead to a (positive) change.

First: think about your reader (just one). Think about where they’re at. What kind of state they’re in.

That might be: bored, Monday morning-ish, worried about how to do sales and marketing, bogged down in the minutiae of running their own business, lacking in confidence in the power of their own words, disbelieving that they’re creative, convinced they can’t take photographs.

Now: think about the state they’d like to be in.

That might be: energised, Friday morning-ish, confident in writing sales copy, relishing their creativity… and so on.

So now you’ve created a story. A journey. A distance your hero needs to travel from one point to another. To get from A to B.

The purpose of your question is to help your reader do just that. To get from A to B.

Hold on to the belief that they already have all the resources they need. Focus on asking the question that will help your reader to tap into, to access, to make use of those resources. Trust your instinct that you’ll find the right answer.

Then: ask yourself this.

What’s the most useful question you can ask that will help you reader get from where they are to where they want to be?

You don’t need to share your answers here… but I look forward to reading your questions

This is the fourth instalment of a 5 part series. Previous entries:

How To Ask Purposeful Questions

Creating the Space to Ask Questions

The Purpose That’s Driving Your Question

Coming next: 7 Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Ask Your Readers Questions

Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count

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5 Responses to “Asking Questions For A Change: Part IV of the Questions Series”

  1. On June 12, 2008 at 8:16 am Cath Lawson responded with... #

    Thanks for this Joanna. I’d love to make my readers feel like it’s Friday on a Monday. Now you’ve got me brainstorming some ideas.

  2. On June 12, 2008 at 11:01 am Karen Putz / DeafMom responded with... #

    This is a good series, Joanna! I’m keeping this in mind as I work a post for my other blog this morning.

    Sorry about the no comment box- I’m puzzled by that too! Sometimes the theme seems to act up…

  3. On June 12, 2008 at 4:42 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Cath, it’s good to hear from you. Glad the post has got you thinking. You’re welcome to make me feel Friday morning ish any day :-)

    Karen, it was good to reflect on questions for this series and to think about different ways we can use them. Glad it’s been a help.

    Your site is looking lovely - sure the teething problems will settle down soon.


  4. On June 19, 2008 at 4:04 am Damien responded with... #

    Great stuff here. i especially like #1. The word “value” is highly subjective, and aren’t we all glad?

  5. On June 19, 2008 at 8:05 am Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Damien, I think readers add value in all sorts of splendiferous ways, and often discount the value they add. I know some people like to think they’re adding something of consequence - me I’m always glad of a bit of conversation and cheer-me-up when I switch on the computer!

    And yes, thank heavens for subjectivity :-)



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