Sunday, May 25, 2008

Choose "How" Questions Over "Why" Questions

Why are you stuck?  That's not a very empowering question.  You'll just figure out reasons for why you're stuck.  Instead, ask a question like "how can you move forward?" or "how might you accomplish that?"  The key is to ask "how" questions over "why" questions.  In Unlimited Power : The New Science Of Personal Achievement, Tony Robbins writes about choosing "how" questions over "why" questions.

Choose "How" Questions Over "Why" Questions
Robbins writes that you should choose "how" questions over "why" questions:

Here's another important frame.  Choose "how" questions over "why" questions.  "Why" questions can get you reasons and explanations and justifications and excuses.  But they usually don't come up with useful information.  Don't ask your kid why he is having trouble with algebra.  Ask him what he needs to do to perform better.  There's no need to ask an employee why he didn't get a contract you were bidding for.  Ask him how he can change so you'll be certain to get the next one. 

Good Communicators Move Forward
Robbins writes that good communicators focus on moving forward over rationalizing why something's wrong:

Good communicators aren't interested in rationalizations of why something is going wrong.  They want to find out how to do it right.  The right questions will lead you in that direction.

Key Take Aways
Here's my key take aways:

  • Choose "how" questions over "why" questions.
  • Don't dwell on what's wrong, focus on what's right.
  • Find a way to move forward.

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2 comments:

Andrew Peacock said...

"Why" questions can easily be turned around by asking "What stopped you..."? or "What makes you...?" (after all, "why...." often is followed by "... did you...?" or "... didn't you...?")

Regards,
Andy

J.D. Meier said...

Hey Andy

True.

The key is to shift tense from the past (blame) to the future (opportunity.) For example, "what could you try that might work?"