The power of a great question is in unlocking the thinking of the recipient.
The key to a great question though is in the mental work the recipient has to do.
One way that we sabotage ourselves in coaching others is adding a reflexive clause to our questions.
Can you explain to me…
“To me” is the misstep (in my opinion, yes I know). The assumption is that explaining to me will help the client understand themselves better. And we all know what assumptions do, right? Adding to me requires the client to perform 2 tasks. Do the thinking, and then think through the encoding of the message in a way that they believe the hearer will understand. Encoding messages can be very intensive. Think of preparing to deliver a bad performance review, or talking to a significant other about a bad decision or potential area of conflict. Figuring out how to say whatever it is in a way that will be well received takes an enormous amount of emotional energy.
A truly client centric response would locate in the client’s understanding themselves.
“How clear are you in your own thinking about this issue?”
“What, if anything, is unclear, value, or uncertain in your thinking?”
These open ended questions are powerful because they don’t cause the client to have to do 2 steps. They remain centered in the client’s own experience. Certainly there will come a point where the client encodes and communicates the message. However, first they must be clear within themselves. That is the role of the coach. Help them get internal clarity, then help them clean up external communication.