how questions can change our relationships

Helena Lopez – Unsplash

Hi, friends!

It’s been a while. I have not had the mental space to write clear thoughts for a long time. However, today is the day. I received the fun (and motivating) notification that this blog has had over 100,000 all-time views(!), and I finished a book that I liked a lot and want to share with you. When I share my learning with others, it sticks better with me, so thank you for helping me out by reading this post. The added plus is that I think you will learn things that are also helpful for you.

The book I finished is called “The Coaching Habit,” written by a coaching guru, born in Australia, now living in Canada, named Michael Bungay Stanier (MBS). He writes with humor and wit; the book is easy-to-apply practical and deeply wise.

The book’s premise is “say less – ask more” to tame your “advise monster.” Make it a habit to ask more questions.

Without this habit, we make people overly dependent on us, pick up work others would do, place ourselves “one up” on others, and give advice that isn’t truly helpful. I cringe when I think those things might be my effect at work. Even less do I want that to be true of me at home.

It takes COURAGE to ask a question
rather than offer up advice, provide an answer
or unleash a solution.

~ Brene Brown

Over the years, I’ve read other books on coaching, but this one is less of a “How to…” book and more of a “Why do I…” book. Stanier uses plain English to dig into our mindsets, neuroscience, and resistance to change. He understands the drivers, the triggers, and the heart behind what we do and guides us towards what we want to do instead.

This is not an “instant answer” book. It will not fix our tendency to think too highly of ourselves and our advice, but it can help.

When we ask questions, we value people
and we empower them to find the best solutions to real problems.

Stanier’s seven key questions are:

  • What’s on your mind? (allow the other person to set the agenda)
  • And what else? (often the first problem or solution is not the “real” one or the best one)
  • What’s the real challenge here for you? (help focus)
  • What do you want? (getting to the root of the issue)
  • How can I help? (don’t offer help – let them tell you what they want)
  • If you are saying YES to this, to what are you saying NO? (so very powerful)
  • What was most useful to you? (when they reflect, they remember)

I highly recommend the book, The Coaching Habit (also available in Spanish). Even more than that, I hope you will continue to grow your question-asking skills along with me and fight back the advice monsters that are running amuck in our world today.

Curiosity is powerful.

Now to practice.
What is your takeaway from this post? What was most useful to you?


**More from Michael Bungay Stanier: Box of Crayons and MBS.works websites

13 thoughts on “how questions can change our relationships

  1. “It takes courage to ask a question rather than offer up advice.” From a fixer and free advice giver, this is a challenge. I heartily agree that asking questions delves deeper into the heart and soul of the one you speak with. I want to be that person. It’s a learning curve!

  2. Congratulations on so many views!
    I find that usually all I do in a conversation is ask questions. And I do that to steer the conversation away from myself so I don’t think it’s necessarily a good thing. It keeps me from having to expose any part of myself. A safety thing.
    But thinking about it I also don’t think I pay as much attention to the answers I receive as I should. I’m not really giving the person the value that asking the question implies. I’m asking for the wrong reasons.
    Always something to work on!

    • Those are great reflections and self-awareness, Karen. Yes, we can “use” questions for safety. Love that you recognize that and want to keep learning. So much honesty there – really appreciate that. Thanks for sharing! 🤍

  3. Reblogged this on Leader Impact and commented:
    I recently read Michael Bungay Stanier’s book, “The Coaching Habit”. It was one of the best coaching books I’ve read. My wife, Terry also read it and summarized the book in a post on her blog. Check it out,

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