The right question is the question that the client understands, the question that the client knows the answer to. The right question is appropriate and timely.
Let me give you an example of a wrong question I have been asked recently.
I am at my dentist’s office. Elevator music soundtrack, and the receptionist is wearing a necklace made of large Christmas ornaments. It’s May. Ok, whatever.
My dentist is a beautiful Indian woman in her late thirties. She asks how I am doing, and whether I have any plans for the summer.
I hate dentists. Not like… actual people, but the idea of dentists, and the experience of dentists. When I was little, I used to say I was allergic to dentists. It was not that far from the truth.
I spent many hours in a dentist chair, most of them without anesthetic, because women – even ten year old ones – in Communist Russia were strong, and didn’t need no anesthetic, thank you very much.
My mother once had to rip me off the window sill that I clawed into with all my might, and then feed me Valerian root extract drops (which was Russian solution to everything) to calm me down before putting me back into the dentist chair.
“We are just doing one filling today.” My dentist smiles. I am preoccupied with what is about to happen. She picks up a long needle, and plunges it deep into the soft tissue of my cheek.
“How are you feeling?”. “Are you comfortable?” “Are you good?”
The needle is STILL in my cheek – the anesthetic being released ever so slowly.
I am feeling somewhat… ragey.
Lady. You stuck a needle into my face, and you currently have both (!) hands down my throat. And now you are expecting me to describe my experience.
On the list of all the adjectives I can possibly come up with describe my current experience, “good” is pretty far down the list.
“Are you good?” is the wrong question.
I make gurgling sounds, and raise my eyebrows meaningfully, to try and express my confusion at her question. She nods reassuringly.
Notice that the situation I describe probably calls for close-ended questions. I cannot exactly go into details of my experience, while my mouth is wide open.
So… Yes or no.
Does this hurt? Do you feel the anesthetic working? Is the pain tolerable? Do you need a break? Blink twice if you want me to stop.
Are you asking the right questions? Because if you are not, you will not get the information you are looking for.
Want few examples of wrong questions in the coaching setting? A client told me once of a personal trainer who opened their session with “So, how did you let yourself go?”. Um yeah. Try again.
Another one: “Why would you want to do THAT?” in response to a new workout program, a new diet, a new supplement that a client wants to try. Notice how “why” at the beginning immediately makes the client defensive, rather than open.
Here are the questions I use quite a bit (my clients can usually speak freely during coaching sessions :), so they are open-ended):
* How can I be helpful today? * What would that look like? * Can you help me understand a bit more about…. * And let’s say that happened, then what? * What happened before x? Can you walk me through your day step by step? * Imagine you and I talk again in a week, and I ask you how you are doing, and you respond with: “Awesome, coach! This week went so well!”. What would need to happen for this scenario to come true?
What are some of your favourite questions to ask your clients?