The questions you ask are impacting. How?
As a healthcare professional, I spend time asking people questions. Often difficult ones.
This is one of the key skills that we can seek to master with practice. Of course, being able to ask great questions is not just within the realm of the clinic. A sure way of deepening any relationship is through the expression of curiosity about the other person.
Questions direct attention. Once posed, an answer is usually forthcoming. The content of that answer will depend upon the angle of the question and where it is pointed.
A simple example of a question to self could be, why am I so tired? I will answer this by listing the possible reasons: I did not sleep very well, it was a long day, I have been sat in this chair for hours…. . By focusing on these thoughts and associated images, my energy drains further. I feel worse.
Alternatively I may ask, how can I build my energy? To this I will consider the ways I can do just that and feel better. One: because I am making a choice and focusing on what I can control; and two: because I am taking positive action.
The simple life rule is that what we focus on governs how we feel. Then, what we are focusing on can depend upon the question asked.
What question will you ask?
Questions allow you to delve deeper. Someone may give you a short answer. You want to know more. What and how do you ask?
The tone of voice that you use, the speed of delivery, the eye contact (or not), your posturing (forward, back or something else), the time you give them to think and respond are all tools to be used with skill.
One possible style is conversational, characterised by a sense of flow, back and forth. I prefer this as an approach over the idea of assessment.
What do you want to have achieved at the end of the session? I want to know the person: their story, strengths, resources and approach to life. Assessment implies judgement. It is not my role to judge. Instead I seek to create a safe sanctuary where the person can understand their pain and suffering before moving on to shape a positive future.
Listening and questioning come hand in hand
Hand in hand with questioning is listening. Together they provide the oil for the exchange. They need each other.
To listen we must be present. In the room.
Of course our minds wander, one of the causes of all suffering. The practice of coming back to now over and over is worthwhile for our own wellness (attention is one of the skills of being well), to hear what the person is saying and how.
Meditation builds our ability to pay attention, to be present and to see things for what they are rather than distortions of our own biases. Deeper practice can results in the loss of dualism — the feeling that there is a subject and an object.
Ask more questions
When you ask more questions, listen deeply to the answers, dig deeper, leave pauses and hold back on urges to butt in, see what happens.
We probably need to ask: when are you in pain? We probably then do not need to dwell on this. We can ask: when are you at your best? This we can dwell upon and explore. Within these stories are the person’s strengths and potential. Building on these opens the way forward towards their picture(s) of success.
Questions are fateful.
Questions create opportunity.
Questions give direction and focus.
Questions deepen understanding.
Questions encourage and guide.
Questions show that you care.