The Value of the Right Questions
Henry feels like a failure because he is depressed. It has been months since he felt this way, and he thought he was over it. He is asking the question, “What is wrong with me?”
Caroline changed jobs six months ago. She was excited about the new opportunity in a new field, doing something completely different. As it turns out, she doesn’t like what she is doing and wants to quit. Caroline asks, “Why do I keep making the wrong decisions?”
Charley and Kris have been dating for a year. After a celebrating the milestone, they have a huge fight. They are scared and unsure of their ability to have a long-term relationship. Each one is asking, “Why am I so stupid to believe that I can be in a loving relationship?”
What they have in common is they are asking the wrong questions, and in doing so are putting themselves on trial. They were acting like prosecuting attorneys, working to find fault and blame. They condemn themselves without looking at the whole picture.
They needed a new method to evaluate themselves, the situation and how to proceed forward. Conflict, disappointment and depression are not indicators of failure; they are a call to take a deeper look at our needs, desires and actions in order to grow toward a better future.
When I was in graduate school, my ethics teacher believed the way to find the answer to difficult questions was to ask the right question. He taught that if you could not find the answer to a dilemma, you were asking the wrong question.
One way to ask the right question is through Appreciative Inquiry. It is based on the art of asking questions. The right question starts meaningful conversations. When non-judgmental questions are asked in a safe environment, people often share stories of positivity, growth, and dreams. It is an approach to change that involves the discovery of what gives life and vitality to people, groups and organizations, when they are at their best.
The Power of Questions
Appreciative inquiry is a way to change our default setting from looking at what is wrong, to looking for what is right. Instead of seeing the negative, it helps us look for the growth opportunity in everything that comes to us in life. There are two essential ingredients: being mindful of the questions we ask, and directing them toward strength and positive outcomes.
Here are the steps you can take to help you ask the right question that will
lead you to the answers you need in the moment.
1. Name The Problem:
What is it that is troubling you in the moment? Be as
specific as possible. In Henry’s case, he need to look at how he related to
his lifelong depression. How could it be a productive part of his life rather
than a sign of failure?
2. Look For Your Strengths:
You have strengths and abilities that got you to
where you are now. In this moment, you are struggling but you do not
struggle all the time. Your main task is to ask, “What is working well and
why? How did I contribute to what is working well?” Caroline was not giving herself credit for the courage it took to find a new job. She was not seeing all the experience she was receiving in the new job. Her decision to take a new job was simply to try something new. Now she has learned new things and she can move to the next experience.
3. Look For The Possibilities:
Allow yourself to have a positive vision and
dream for your future. How can you apply the positive steps you have
made in the past to the present? Charley and Kris hit a hard patch after their
anniversary. It did not mean that the relationship was not going to make it; it
meant that they were ready to learn more about themselves and their
relationship. They needed to change the questions from, “Why am I stupid?” to “What has worked in this relationship? What is positive about this relationship?
How are we better together than single? How have I lost sight of that and
what do I need to do to move toward a positive future?”
4. Take Action:
After you have answered the questions, decide what steps
you need to take to fulfill your goals. Thinking, planning and looking forward
are the steps to lead you to action. Without action, there is no change.
Life is about the slow and steady movement toward the future. There maybe times when life moves along quickly but the norm is steady as you go. You will get where you are wanting to go.
Are you having trouble asking the right questions? I can help, call me at (919)881-2001.