Powerful Questions

Powerful QuestionsPosting the quotation by Albert Einstein in our blog on Monday was a reminder about a terrific article we read some time ago called The Beauty of Questions, written by Karen Hornheffer-Ginter.

As Karen says:

Sometimes … questions create a bridge within ourselves, allowing us to hear what’s going on at a deeper level. We know when we’ve encountered a question that has this potential because it stays with us – maybe for the day, maybe for our whole lives. It taps us on the shoulder to wake us up, or it wiggles its way in more deeply, opening us up to seeing things in a new way.

It is so true that questions have a unique beauty when asked mindfully, with genuine curiosity and an open heart. As Einstein indicated, though in a different context, finding the right questions to ask is the key to discovery – whether about ourselves, about others or about the world around us.  Powerful questions move us, challenge us and stick with us for a very long time.

Several things in Karen’s article also reminded us why we are so passionate about the Appreciative Inquiry approach.  :)

Chris touched on this in a previous blog post – THE Appreciative Moment in Appreciative Inquiry – in which he talked about moving beyond ‘what’s it about?’ and diving deeper into ‘what’s it really about?’.

As Appreciative Inquiry practitioners, we know the questions we ask determine what we find. If we ask about problems, those problems will assume centre stage and become the focus of the ensuing conversation. But if we ask questions about people’s successes, hopes and dreams …. well, that’s a very different conversation!

It’s also far more powerful to ask deeper questions, encouraging the telling of heartfelt stories. Think about the difference between asking someone ‘What do you do?’ and ‘What attracted you or drew you in to the work you do?’

Ok, ok …  so perhaps we may need to ask the first question first. :) But that second question, asked with genuine curiosity and interest, can deepen both the conversation and the relationship.

It’s also a surprising question! After all, how often do we ask people – or are we ourselves asked – to reflect on what motivates and inspires us?

Powerful questions are those which touch the heart and spirit as well as the mind. They encourage reflection and build relationships – and also invite us to see ourselves and our world a little differently.

One final observation about the art of asking powerful questions … we adults can also learn a great deal from children!

As Bishop Desmond Tutu once said:

Children are a wonderful gift. They have an extraordinary capacity to see into the heart of things and to expose sham and humbug for what they are.

Their thirst for knowledge and insatiable curiosity about the world around them means they will often ask a question that goes to the very centre of things, surprises us, challenges us and encourages us to see the world anew.

What powerful questions have impacted on your life – or stayed with you over time?

If you have a story to share, we’d love to hear from you!

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