Asking Artful Questions
Your easy guide to increasing connection when tough conversations need to be had
The art to asking the right questions can come from you, the person who most wants to go deeper. This may take some practice but at the very least, it will take planning if this is not something you are used to doing. Have a base question and plan to always bring it back to that question. This helps to ensure you don’t wander aimlessly off topic.
First know that we ask artful questions for a reason.
We want to gather information, develop rapport, but most importantly to ensure the other person gets to go inside their own head and explore some deeper thinking about the conversation or topic at hand. It comes down to you to decide ahead of time to do these things to support and enable the flow of questions to help deliver the outcomes you want.
Be comfortable. If one of you needs to be able to walk around as they talk, or share things in the dark holding hands, or sit side by side at you walk or drive or stare out at the ocean, be aware of their physical needs.
The Rule of Present Perfect!
Make the present moment – every single moment of the conversation – perfect. Stay in the present moments, without stepping forward and assuming you know where the other person is going.
Do not: Nod, say yes, say uh huh, or any other affirming words until the other person has finished talking. Leave a space for the answers to flow, and any final words to also be added. Then speak.
Affirm that what you have understood they were saying was their intention for understanding. For example, “So you mean that you do like it when we …, is that right?” Or “Do I take it that you are asking for more …, Yes?”
Staying present in the moment takes practice but it’s worth it. It means the other person becomes more relaxed and does not rush through their answers or their thinking. They will then often go deeper into their own feelings about the conversation. Encourage them to feel safe to do that.
The Rule of Judgement!
Ensure the other person knows completely that what is discussed, is important, relevant to you both, and that the conversation remains between you both. That there will be no judgments about what is said. Be compassionate. Both agree to this at the start, and it removes insecurities about what heartfelt issues may arise. If you both feel safe being vulnerable respect that totally. You both need to know that the other person is not going to use anything you say against you in a later argument or discuss it with anyone else.
The Rule of The Next Steps!
Decide going in that you will both agree to take at least one positive thing away from the conversation, that you each share at the end and agree to take action on. Just one thing. This is the next step. It may be that it’s reconvening for more conversation, trying a new ‘thing’ together, finding out more information, or opening up to a new line of thinking about something. Agree to that rule of next steps being taken.
Avoiding The Interrogation Style of Conversation
Establish that you know the difference between the different types of questions you need to ask, so that you can be prepared ahead of time with the ability to gently guide your partner through the questions, so that he or she does not feel interrogated.
- What is true/situation now?
- How could it be different, and how might that affect either of you?
Thought provoking questions:
- Where does this idea or belief come from? What has triggered this feeling for you?
- If we were to try this, how would it play out?
- If we waved a magic wand over this how do you think it would change anything?
NOTE: A truly effective rhetorical question has no answer to it before it is asked.
You may think you have the answer, and if you are fishing for any particular answer, but already attached to one, then you can miss all the other fish (answers).
Why/Why not Questions?
- Why should we do this?
- Why should we not do this?
- What do we have to lose either way?
- What can we do next to bring us closer to what we both want?
- Can we agree to …?
If luck is really about preparation meeting opportunity, then you won’t need luck on your side to have deep and meaningful, and productive conversations. You will simply need to be prepared, and to create the right environment and opportunity for those conversations to happen.
If you think some helpful conversation about this subject is in order, please feel free to message Dixie for some mentoring or a 1:2:1 discussion about this. It does take time and practice to ask questions artfully… but it is definitely a skill worth learning.
Just let us know how we can assist you with something…