asking powerful questions

questions Do you ask powerful questions?

I have been learning about active listening the last few weeks; now I am learning about how to ask well. Once again, I felt convicted and challenged by all that I can improve, especially if I want to demonstrate respect and allow the other person to come up with their own answers.

I am especially challenged by this key attitude check… Do I believe the best in the person and their ability to solve their own problem(s), or do I just want them to do what I want them to do?

You may already recognize some of these questions already, but if you are like me, there are some new ones in the list and/or some that you can use more often…enjoy the review!


A closed question can only be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” answer. It does not invite further conversation or deeper sharing. An open question, on the other hand, has no right or wrong answer and can be answered in many different ways.

KEY TIP: Almost any closed question can be made open by adding “how,” “what,” “which,” or “who” at the beginning.

Example: “Did you do your action steps this week?” “No.” (Closed)

   “What did you do on your action steps this week?” …… (Open)


Solution-Oriented questions are often well-intentioned, but they are actually just a predetermined answer in the form of a question. (This one was very convicting! I know I am often figuring out how to fix the situation as I listen. 😦 ) A Bigger question allows the other person to take charge of thinking up the solutions.

Example: “How about if you took a class in that?” (Solution-Oriented)

   “What are some ways you could learn more about that?” (Bigger)


Probing questions explore and gather more information. They are neutral and help to keep the person talking.

Key Tips: Avoid “Why did you…?” questions and remember that 80% of “air time” is for the person you are coaching. Just 20% is for the coach.

Examples: “Tell me a little more about that.” 

    “What did you mean when you said__________?”

    “How does that make you feel?”

If you try some of these questions this week, let me know how it goes for you!

What are some questions you would add to this list? (Notice my open, bigger, probing question! 🙂 )

**These are great questions for encouraging the thought process. Next week we will look at questions to use for helping people move toward action steps!

10 thoughts on “asking powerful questions

  1. thanks for this post Terry! As my kids get older, I have to get smarter about my question-asking or they shut me out. The skills I learn at home (from the people that I want relationship with so much) then roll into how I treat people and lead people at work.So your reminder of how to ask good questions highlights a skill that I need to keep improving!


  2. Yeah, the solution oriented questions (SOCs) really nailed me too. I have learned about the importance of asking questions, but the SOCs are just giving advice in the form of a question. A great example of learning a skill without changing the heart. I like what you said about the attitude check. The heart attitude of what we believe about people is so important.


    • Thank YOU for reading and encouraging me, Alice! You are already such a great coach, listening and asking well. I love that you always want to learn more and get better! You inspire me! Love you!


  3. You nailed this “fixer” right on the dime! I naturally ask questions–but I don’t often thing of how I’m asking. Sweet reminders that the focus needs to be the other person when I’m coaching–or even encouraging a friend. Thanks, Ter, for your insight and kindness! You made this doable–not guilt-ridden!


    • Glad to hear… or I’d be under a huge guilt heap myself! 🙂 It is powerful how such a small adjustment of a word or two can make such a big difference! Appreciate your encouragement always!


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