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The Power of Asking the Right Questions

In our professional journey of decision making and people connect, we realize in hindsight that, had we asked the right questions and questioned the answers more deeply, we would have removed subjectivity out of our business & people decisions to some extent. Maybe we could have prevented that costly business decision or a talented exit!

We knew this all along so why this revelation now? Recently, I enrolled with a reputed firm to refine my coaching passion. In the path to discovery of nuances of coaching as gathered from more than three decades of professional experience, I learnt that that the sacred relationship between the Coach & the Coachee hinges around asking the right questions and to question the answers. Thereby, the Coachee discovers their path for themselves whether resolving business or life situations.

Obviously, easier said than done!

The aim of questioning situations and people is to differentiate ‘reality’ from ‘perception’. In this churning ocean of infinite questioning, the mythological pot of nectar is still elusive - unless the right questions are asked. That is where the power of asking right questions matter.

Let’s first understand the possibilities that arise out of the answers before we seek to asking the powerful questions:

· In the first place, our initial questioning itself has been misunderstood.

· We ‘assumed’ the answer instead of understanding it.

· Some answers consciously hid the reality, partially or fully.

· Some answers did not imply what is being said.

· Some answers oscillated between exaggeration and understatement making it difficult to assess reality unless corroborated with facts.

In all of these answers, there would be an element of ‘unsaid’ which is difficult to fathom. Its only when a relevant question is asked and there is integrity in the answer to express the reality, can we then consider heading towards a plausible logical conclusion.

Unfortunately, asking the powerful question is not as clear as black & white. It has to be derived from an immense canvas of grey possibilities. We could narrow down that possibility by considering the following factors to frame our Powerful Question:

· Ascertaining the perception of the situation or person giving out the answer.

· Our perception of understanding the ‘given’ answer.

· Ability to ‘question’ the given answer to understand its depth towards figuring out the reality.

When it comes to understanding a situation to make a decision, the availability of data and facts largely contribute as a major factor. The quality and integrity of interpretation of these data and facts coupled with asking the right questions is likely to lead to a resolution that will not be regretted.

However, when it comes to dealing with people, we come across three major classification of people responses:

· One who articulates the answer.

· One whose answers need to be prodded.

· Shades of ‘in-betweens’ of the above two.

The challenges of seeking realistic answers are multi-fold in the above categories and hence the need to understand this category and where they come from.

The ones who articulate well are people who acquired or refined the skill over time, supported by their education, background, grooming and self-learning – not necessarily in the same sequence. They are, in most cases, adept at articulating reality fairly well. In the same vein, they have the ability to express their context to suit their ‘point of view’ which may not reflect reality. There is a heavy dependence of integrity on what the ‘articulators’ express and thus they can pose real challenge in trying to figure out the reality due to their mastered eloquence.

In the case of those whose answers need to be prodded out, appropriate sequencing of the questions and identifiable integrity of the answers is likely to facilitate arriving at reality. A few powerful questions when asked progressively increases revelation of the reality.

The third category of people are a challenge by themselves as they oscillate between being articulate and being silent or answer in mono-syllables when confronted with difficult or sensitive questions. In some cases, they wish to avoid answering.

While people cannot be strictly compartmentalized into above three groups, they could display their choices to answer in a particular way according to the situation that suits them.

Lastly, I am aware of the injustice done in this write to condense the magnitude of such a subject. However, I thought it prudent to awaken the process of asking the ‘right’ questions at the ‘right’ time – be it a business situation or people connect.

I am not sure if there is a formula to frame the ‘powerful’ question. We sure can identify the fog that surrounds the situation or people. The heat of asking the right questions may dissipate the fog to arrive at reasonable clarity.

I thank Chandan, Amitava and peer coaches of International Society for Coaching Professionals for making the coaching journey a trek of self-discovery with ability to challenge the status quo.

Looking forward to your thoughts and comments to let me know if I have done some justice in addressing a topic that is complex and all pervasive in our professional & personal lives

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