What is your favorite question?
As a coach, questions are the life-blood of my work. Used effectively they can draw out information, shed light on an issue and lead to greater personal insights. When asked in open-ended, non-judgmental ways, questions can become significant catalysts for change, growth and forward movement.
I cannot recall where I first encountered the phrase ‘get curious’ but I suspect it was in a coaching workshop and it has radically impacted how I engage with people. When I live with vibrant curiosity I have my antennae up to whoever I’m with. My attentiveness increases as I focus my thoughts on coming to greater understanding rather than formulating opinions or ideas. By inquiring, I am honoring my conversational partner with personalized interest.
One of my favorite questions for working with people in career transition is one that, when I first heard it, seemed ridiculous. I attended a seminar where the instructor was asked by a participant, “How do you handle clients who answer all your questions with ‘I don’t know’?” My interest piqued as I also routinely encountered that roadblock.
The instructor replied, “I give them my best empathetic eyes and then say, ‘Okay. Well if you did know, what would that look like?’” The reaction of others in the room told me I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t believe we were paying good money for this ‘help’. “Just try it,” she encouraged. I felt quite certain I would not.
And then along came a particularly challenging client who seemed to have only a three word vocabulary. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. It didn’t matter which direction I went in my attempts to assist him. He didn’t know. In an act of mild desperation I blurted out, “So if you did know, how would moving ahead look?”
To my shock he sat silently, clearly pondering the concept, and then began to outline a strategy for progress. I have since incorporated this approach into my repertoire as it seems to allow people freedom to imagine and create rather than feel pinned to knowing and having things figured out. Who knew?
The power of questions has impacted my spiritual life as well. In her book, Being Well When We’re Ill, Marva Dawn says: “A first step toward finding intellectual, emotional and spiritual well-being in spite of the absurdity of our physical circumstances is to change the questions from ‘Why?’ to ‘What?’ and ‘Where?’ and to ask these with an open-minded commitment to look for answers. More completely, the new questions are ‘What is God doing in the midst of this?’ and ‘Where do I catch glimpses of the Trinity’s grace?’”
This switch to not demanding answers so I understand has been a source of freedom for me. It occurred to me recently that even in those times where I feel like the penny drops or the light goes on, I don’t really fully get it. There are nuances, implications and God’s higher plan that I will never know. Letting go of asking why is one expression of surrendering to the Lord.
God has also used this shift in thinking to heighten my awareness of His presence in my daily circumstances. And now you know the backdrop to this blog’s title. I seek to live with eyes to see and a heart to feel God’s presence in the midst of each day.
This week I launched a series on a Facebook page (Togethering with Shelaine Strom) where a coaching-type question will appear each Monday morning. I invite you to check out the page and reflect on what is being asked. Feel free to ponder it privately or post your thoughts so we can share together in the power of meaningful inquiry.
With love and gratitude,
In The Midst