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Questions, arguably, are one of the most powerful tools a coach has. And if you’re in the business of learning how to coach yourself (something I teach), questions are at the core of this skill. But questions can also work against self development depending on how they are framed.
Hiding in questions
There’s a big difference between questions that are revelatory, motivational, and constructive versus doubtful and nonconstructive. For example:
- Why can’t I do this?
Unless you’re in a highly conscious, thoughtful frame of mind, a question like this typically comes from a victim mentality. Your brain is always going to answer a question, or at least try, and the answers contained in your subconscious mind to a question like the one above might be:
- Because you’re stupid.
- Because you’re not good enough.
- Because you’re a loser.
Harsh, but depending on the thought patterns you’ve picked up along the road of life, those subconscious thoughts can lead to giving up. Nobody likes being called a loser, even by themselves. So to avoid having that thought again, the easiest course of action is to avoid whatever it is you’re trying to do altogether, which creates a great hiding place.
Changing the questions
The best way to avoid the hiding place is to avoid the question altogether. But questions are essential for self coaching, so what should be done?
Change the question. The way a question is worded is IMPERATIVE to creating how you will think, feel, and act.
- What actions can I take to get this done?
Compare that to “Why can’t I do this?” Notice how much more empowering just the change in wording in that question is.
“Why can’t I do this?” implies that there’s something wrong with you, and your brain will bring up all the crappy thoughts that have ever been conditioned in your mind to answer that question.
“What actions can I take to get this done?” raises a conscious challenge for your brain to consider. It’s no longer about what you’re lacking, but about the possibilities that exist.
Watch your followup questions
It’s very easy to negatively framed questions to sneak their way back into your thought process. For example, say you’re thinking about the ways you can get something done after asking a great question.
Maybe you get stuck on a detail, and all of a sudden a question like this pops up:
- Am I ever going to figure out how to do this?
If you’re lacking confidence in yourself, your brain will probably be quick to answer with something like “you don’t know how to do this, you should just quit” or “this is too complicated, you can try again tomorrow”. (We all know what putting it off until tomorrow can lead to; never actually doing it.)
In a case like this, you could reword the question to:
- Other people have figured out how to do this, I wonder how long it will take me to?
Notice how this question implies that you will get it done, and creates a sense of curiosity.
Reframing questions from negative, victim mentality wording to positive, empowered wording can make a world of difference to the actions you take and the results you create in your life.
Work with me
Would you like help reframing your questions? As a certified life coach I am skilled at assisting people to see where questions are tripping them up, and how to ask better ones.