Questioning Skills

by Steve Roche

Internal questioning

In most of this topic, it is assumed that you are the questioner and someone else is being questioned, but sometimes it is important to start with yourself:

  • Do you have any negative internal dialogue going on?
  • Are you undermining your own best efforts?
  • Is your thinking stuck in some respect, perhaps because of an attitude that was drummed into you when you were a child?

You may need to use the questioning technique described on the previous page to identify and deal with your own favourite Deletions, distortions and generalisations.

Discover whether you have any demotivating, unrealistic comparisons in your mind. Listen for other people’s opinions or outdated judgements that still emerge from your unconscious instead of a considered answer. Sometimes they come complete with the tone of voice of the person they originally belonged to.

You may find many ought tos and can’ts that needlessly limit your freedom of action. You might catch some of your own beliefs and assumptions and hold them up for a closer look. Some examples:

  • I should do this.

What would happen if I didn’t?

  • I can’t do this.

What stops me?

  • They don’t like me.

How do I know exactly?

  • I’m bored.

How exactly am I boring myself?

  • This decision is really difficult.

How am I finding it difficult deciding?

  • No-one will help me.

No-one? No-one at all?

What do you believe about the way questions should be answered?

Are you expecting answers that are short, sharp and to the point? Or are you looking for yes and no answers? If so, how will you feel when you don’t get them? Do you hesitate to ask your boss questions? Do you feel you should have the answers already?

Remember that people answer questions in different and very personal ways.

  • Some people use answering time to gather their thoughts.
  • Few of us are capable of sufficient clarity of thought to quickly produce a concise answer to a difficult or unexpected question.
  • Many of us have had the experience of being slightly surprised to hear ourselves say something (‘I didn’t know I knew that’... ‘I don’t know what I think until I hear myself saying it’).

The successful manager has the flexibility to adapt to people’s differing views of the world. Beware of allowing your own view of the world to limit you to what you believe ‘should’ be happening.