An honest, open question is one you cannot possibly ask while thinking, “I know the right answer to this and I sure hope you give it to me…” It is all about helping others listen for inner truth.
10 GUIDELINES FOR ASKING OPEN, HONEST QUESTIONS…
1. ASK QUESTIONS that are BRIEF AND TO THE POINT rather than injecting others with rationales and background materials that allow you to insert your own opinions or advice.
2. STAY WITH THE OTHER PERSON’S LANGUAGE with your questions. “What did you mean when you said you felt sad?” is an honest, open question. “Didn’t you also feel angry?” is not.
3. ASK QUESTIONS THAT GO TO THE PERSON AS WELL AS THE PROBLEM, questions about the inner realities of the situation as well as the outward facts.
4. ASK QUESTIONS aimed at HELPING ANOTHER PERSON EXPLORE HIS OR HER CONCERN rather than satisfying your own curiosity.
5. If you have an INTUITION that a certain question might be useful, even if it seems a bit “off the wall,” TRUST IT—once you are reasonably certain that it is an honest, open question. e.g., “What color is this issue for you, and why?”
6. If you aren’t sure about a particular question, SIT WITH IT FOR A WHILE and WAIT FOR CLARITY.
7. WATCH THE PACING OF THE QUESTIONS, allowing some silence between the last answer and the next question. Questions that come too fast may feel aggressive, cutting off the deep reflection that can help the focus person.
8. If you have asked one question and heard an answer, you may feel a need to ask a follow-up question. But IF YOU FIND YOURSELF ABOUT TO ASK THE THIRD QUESTION IN A ROW before anyone else has had a chance to ask one, DON’T!
9. AVOID QUESTIONS WITH YES-NO OR RIGHT-WRONG ANSWERS. They are limiting and block the true self from speaking.
10. The BEST QUESTIONS are often SIMPLE AND STRAIGHTFORWARD.
PLANT A LISTENING PAYS SEED: Learning to ask honest, open questions is challenging. You may slip occasionally into old “fixing” habits. Be very aware of your mistakes. Learning comes in many different ways, including not making that particular mistake again. It helps to continually remind yourself that your purpose is to support another person in listening to his or her inner teacher…..not fixing their problem.
TRY IT OUT: Ask someone an open, honest question today and see what happens. Let us know what you learn.