Ask Questions to Solve Problems

One of the easiest ways to solve problems is to ask questions. Unfortunately, many people get so mired in the problem that they end up blaming others or trying to control the situation instead. This typically leads to more stress.

Think about your own life for a moment. How often do you blame others for your own negative experiences or challenges? How often do you try to use authority or force to solve problems? We all do it from time to time. While in some cases these tactics may appear to work (at least temporarily), more often than not you have the ability to positively influence the situation by simply asking questions.

Notice I said “influence” the situation, not “change” it. That’s because when you’re dealing with other people, influence works better than trying to make someone change. In fact, once you shift your mindset from imposing change on people to influencing them through effective question asking, you’ll quickly notice how much easier it is to solve problems.

For example, here’s a common scenario: A mother is late to work every morning because her 10-year-old son is slow to get ready. Rather than yelling or punishing the child, she can say, “We need to talk about morning time and cooperation. I need your help because what I’m doing is not working. What ideas do you have about reorganizing our morning routine? How about laying out your clothes the night before? What would you think about a five-minute warning before it’s time to leave?”

In order to solve problems, a wise coach asks questions that are directed to process, rather than content. Effective questions focus on the thinking processes, which underlie behavior, performance, decision, or choice. This is how you influence change.

Here are some examples of questions that can help you solve problems:

  1. What would it look like if _____?
  2. What do you think would happen if _____?
  3. What’s another way to approach this?
  4. How would you feel if _____?
  5. What would be your measurement for _____?
  6. What went on in your mind when _____?
  7. What do you think the problem is?
  8. How is this one (way) better than that one (way)?
  9. How (when) might you be able to use this in other situations?
  10. What did you learn from this?

Tip: Next time you’re faced with a challenge, whether a solo challenge or one that involves others, ask questions. The more you engage yourself and others in the thinking process, the easier it will be to solve the problem and reduce your stress.