How to Ask a Powerful Question

Most people totally underestimate the power of a good question. It doesn’t matter if you are handling a customer complaint, dealing with a snide remark or trying to motivate your team, knowing how to ask a powerful question is a skill worth learning.

Here’s a simple overview of how to pose a question under various circumstances.

Problem: Someone says something sarcastic.  Instead of spouting off, ignoring it or playing tit for tat, ask a question. Here are a couple of choices.
Question 1: Are you irritated with me?
Question 2: It sounds like you are upset about something.

Of course your counterpart will probably say something like “you are just too sensitive” or in some way deny the jab, but the point is, now you have called him on it and he will start being more conscious of his rude behavior.

Problem: Someone buts in line at a restaurant.Instead of getting angry or judging her as rude, ask a question.
Question: Did you realize I was in line already?

Of course, this person will  most likely deny it, then apologize, but now you’ve made your point while giving clueless Cathy the benefit of the doubt.

Problem: Your spouse leaves a big mess for you to clean up.  Instead of asking the wrong question, “Why do you always expect me to pick up after you? Do you think I’m your maid???” You ask a better question.
Question: Would you be willing to clean up the mess in the kitchen?

He would be crazy to say “no.” You have also saved yourself the needless drama of blaming and discussing an issue as old as the hills.

Problem: Your employee comes to you complaining. Instead of saying “There’s nothing I can do,” ask a good question.
Question: What are your ideas for solving this?

When you teach your staff to be part of the solution before coming to you, you create engagement instead of tattling. They no longer act like a victim and treat you like a rescuer. (See five ways to stay cool when hot buttons are pressed.)

Instead of reacting, you can respond simply by using a powerful question for any sticky situation.


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