The Art of Questioning: Asking the Question that Helps

I spend my days coaching and engaging with women…and I love it.

In the coaching relationship, learning to develop the art of helpful questioning allows us to explore what is really going on underneath the surface.  When we ask helpful questions, we will receive helpful answers.  Unfortunately, the reverse is also true…when we ask harmful questions, we will receive harmful answers.

Huh?  What does this mean?  Let me explain.

One of the most reoccurring questions showing up in conversations with women is the question, “What is wrong with me?!?”  I hear it asked in moments of acute frustration, overwhelming despair, internal disgust, and sometimes even just out of sheer curiosity.

After noticing how often I heard women ask this, I was struck with the thought of how unhelpful this question really is.  In fact, it is actually quite cruel.  It hurts the person being asked and does not set anyone up to receive a fair answer.  When we ask this question of ‘what’s wrong’, we do harm to our self by not allowing a fair answer to be found…and instead an assumption is made that something is indeed very wrong with us.

The truth is, nothing is ‘wrong’ with us…we are simply at a painful or confusing place in our journey.  What we need are helpful questions that set us up for success to receive better answers.  I have found that kinder gentler questions such as, “Where does it hurt?” or “Why am I stalled?” to be fairer questions, which eventually lead to answers that guide us.

As I listened one more time to this question being habitually tossed out in our conversation, I found myself saying, “How about we ask what is right with you?”

I was met with dead silence on the other end of the phone.

After a moment, I heard some laughter as she asked, “Am I allowed to ask this?”

Yep.  I’m all about embracing the kindest route to help yourself out.  Isn’t life challenging enough without us beating ourselves up with harmful questions?


This new posture of asking helpful questions such as ‘what’s right with me?’ gives us the permission to move forward in authentic ways as we dare to explore new possibilities.  To consider helpful questions challenges a whole new level of self-talk.  Most importantly, it engages our critiquing abilities to focus on our strengths instead of our weaknesses, to find the solutions we need, and build the courage, confidence, and clarity to move forward.

So, here’s some simple guidelines to try for yourself.  Next time something goes wrong, we can often hear our inner-dialogue the loudest, so take a moment to pause and reflect:

  1. Notice your inner dialogue.  Are you asking harmful questions like “What’s wrong with me?”

  2. Shift to a helpful question such as “What’s right with me?” Recognize that there is nothing wrong with you when something is going wrong in your world.

  3. Release yourself from that impossibly high invisible and elusive standard that only you are holding over yourself.

  4. Use your energy that is increasing from the helpful question to get to the solution.

  5. Celebrate how much is right with you.

  6. Continue building on your strengths as you practice inviting in the question “What’s right with me?”

Living in helpful questions is a powerful way to nurture your own personal journey and free you up to step more fully into the life you desire.

When we make a positive internal shift and learn the art of helpful questioning, we receive the answers we need and begin to recognize that it is our best gift to offer the world.

– Heather

One Comment

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