Coaching Questions

By Pete Liska

During coach training with the Center for Coaching Certification (CCC), we reviewed different types of questions and were given specific tips for how to ask powerful questions.  An example of a closed question is when I was talking to a friend.  I asked her “Are you ok?”   Her response was, “Yes. Why?”   A closed question, elicited a short, closed answer followed by a call to defend.  Asking this closed question probably came across to her as if something was wrong.  After asking her this question there was no further discussion, she just looked at me, then continued on with what she was doing. Asking a closed question leaves the person asking the question waiting, as if they expected more.  The person who was asked a closed question, depending on the question, may feel defensive.  In this case, eliciting a question about why I was asking something along that line.  Closed questions invite a short answer.

I then asked her a different question, “What makes you happy?”  Her response and answer to this open question was quite involved, she showed excitement, and at one point seemed very enthusiastic about giving me her answer. The following was her response.  “Being happy in my job is being successful, ensuring the customer is happy, the people I help walk away with that ah-ha moment, which makes me feel good.”  She continued with “In my relationship I respect my boyfriend when he accomplishes something.  I am happy when we work together as a team on household chores.”  She continued with, “I am happy when things are done, when I spend time with close friends, and I am happy when other people are happy.”

Asking this open question elicited a longer response without any prodding or further questioning.  She shared the many things that make her happy both in her business and personal life all on her own.  She talked with emotion, happiness, and shared openly compared to when I asked her the closed question about being okay.  It resulted in her sharing and with me intentionally listening so I really heard what she was saying.

It sounds so simple and what I learned as a result of practicing for my coaching certification was that it really requires intention and effort.  How do you invite a full response and intentionally listen when you ask someone a question?

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