Asking the right question at the right time is an art form.

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The right question at the right time can have a huge impact on someone’s life. I’ve come to believe that questions tend to be more interested than answers and asking questions is certainly part art and part science.  Let me give you an example.

A good friend had recently been struggling with the decision of whether or not to accept a job offer. I’ll call him Joe but that isn’t his name and no this story isn’t about me either.  Joe and I were chatting during a class on leadership coaching that I’m teaching this summer. Joe shared that he had been struggling with ‘should I take this job?’ and a recent question that someone asked him suddenly made the decision much easier. His friend asked him ‘would you buy a used car from that company?’

Huh? Joe is in IT. The company doesn’t sell cars. That question had seemingly nothing to do with the transactional nature of the whether or not to take the job. The question was very different from the advice we might often get to write down all of the pros and cons of the job offer on a sheet of paper. Salary and days off weren’t framed in the question.  But it was a powerful question that made my friend think. Joe almost instantly realized that no, he wouldn’t buy a used car from that company and decided to decline the offer. I wasn’t involved in the conversation so I didn’t hear what led up to that question. I’m guessing that during the conversation Joe had made statements that made it clear he was getting hung up on attributes of the job and perhaps the people he would be working with that skewed more towards concerns about character and corporate culture. His friend didn’t impose his opinion or judgment on Joe but asked a pointed question that helped Joe come to an ‘aha moment’ that made his decision simple.

Asking the right question at the right time can is a bit of art and a bit of science. Like I said above, I’ve come to believe that focusing on questions rather than answers makes life a bit more interesting. What do you think?

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