[Warning: If you are interested in a calm, comfortable life, this blog will be counterproductive for you.]

Friday, August 24, 2012

False Questions (Grammatically Correct & Relationally Wrong)

Uninvited advice comes across like judgment. When people are sharing problems with their loved ones, they may ask for advice. But many times they just want to share. And instead of just listening, we jump in with our advice. Instead, ask good questions. (See my earlier post on this for more on advice & questions.)

But not all questions are real questions. Beware of using false questions and thinking you're doing well in the conversation. I'm not talking about rules grammar--I'm talking about how they function in a conversation. Some questions meet the grammatical requirements, but behave like giving advice. The person asking the false question is clever enough to phrase their advice in the form of a question--but they're still giving advice.

 For the purposes of helping people think better, these questions don't count. They still feel like judgment.

False Question: Have you thought about talking to your boss?
Translation: You should talk to your boss.
Changed to open question (advice removed): What options have you considered?

False Question: What if you just chalked this one up to experience and started over?
Translation: You should just start over.
Changed to open question (advice removed): What can you learn from this situation?

Even when it is time to offer advice, using insightful, open questions to get them to create the solution themselves helps far better than you just telling them. (See my previous post for more on asking open questions.)  Let's say you do have the right solution in mind (which is not a guarantee). If they actually do what you say (also not guaranteed), they won't really own those choices. They'll always see them as the advice of someone else and not their own ideas. Further, they'll become more dependent on you to solve their problems, instead of learning to solve their own. Use (real) questions in place of advice and watch your influence and impact grow exponentially. (I've tried both methods for years--there's no comparison.)

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