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Coaching Questions: Types and Tips – Part 2 of 5

Open-ended and clarifying questions (as covered in the first post of this series) describe basic types of questions used regularly by coaches. As coaches and clients move forward, coaches spend time exploring further and creating space for the client to think deeply and open their thinking. This post looks at questions that move the process to the next level.

3. Probing versus Attacking

A probing question seeks to provoke thought or further exploration; an attacking question implies someone is wrong. When a client shares a goal and the coach is seeking to understand the motivation for reaching the goal, the coach may ask, “Why?” The word “why” tends to put people on the defense and so may be perceived as an attack. Instead, the coach might simply say, “tell me more about that.” Another option, in a question, is to ask, “How do you benefit?”

4. Advice-free versus Leading

An advice-free question empowers the client to explore possibilities; a leading question gives an answer. In coaching, giving answers is counter to our code of ethics and indicates that the coach is the expert rather than the client. When a client is considering possible barriers to their progress, the natural next step is to ask about how the client will move past the barriers. For example: a client shares the goal of getting fit and the barrier is not exercising regularly. A leading follow-up question might be, “So you are joining a gym to exercise regularly?” The advice-free follow-up question might be, “So how will you exercise regularly?” The advice-free follow-up empowers the client to consider their own best option. For example, the client may not live near a gym, or their family demands might keep going to a gym from being practical, so they consider options like jogging with a neighbor.

How does a coach and their client benefit from probing and advice-free questions?

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