What’s a Powerful Question and Why Should I Care?

For better or worse, as Melania Trump discovered this week when she wore a statement jacket with the words ”I don’t really care, do U?” emblazoned on the back, a well-placed question has the ability to provoke a whole bunch of conversation and plenty of action. Let’s unpack the power of inquiry.

Powerful questions serve a valuable purpose:  they stop cyclical thinking patterns and interrupt conventional mindset. A good question can leap-frog us from endless ruminating to being present to what is important in the moment. Asking, rather than telling is a key component to good, solid life coaching and powerful open-ended questions invite both introspection and expansive thinking. A well-timed and phrased question can crack-open some serious creative insights!

From another perspective, when we listen deeply to one another, we invoke curiosity. Personal awareness is truly authentic, relevant and provocative when we come to new realizations for ourselves.  As Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” A direct and unexpected question can jettison us out of an old way of thinking into uncharted territory.

As a co-active coach, when I ask a client seemingly odd-ball things like:

it’s all in an effort to shift perspective and consider another viewpoint. And it works.

Living in a world that mostly asks questions to brainstorm and find a “fix-it” solution it’s a challenge to sit still and let a powerful question do the work. It requires patience and reflection. It demands clarity and compassion. Digging into what really matters means suspending pre-conceived ideas and beliefs – even if just for a few minutes- to imagine what might be otherwise possible. Unusual answers sometimes surface from unusual questions. More than once, I’ve heard a flip answer or an intuitive reply actually hold more wisdom than a client expected!

Learning to ask powerful questions is a critical coaching skill and it is also a deeply revealing self-awareness tool. When a client begins to apply this kind of thinking on their own, in conversation or journaling, it marks a significant milestone in adaptability and resilience. Many things are possible when a person finds new ways of sizing up a situation. It is not an easy process; it takes courage and a brave heart to step out of comfortable patterns and consider alternative approaches. Powerful questions are a laser-sharp way to focus in on what is important and also to discover what might be possible. In both instances – they invoke conversation and action.


What do you know now about powerful questions that you did not know 15 minutes ago? What is possible for you now that you do know?

Photo Credit: Thomas Kelley