August 29, 2018
Being a parent has been one of the most purposeful, life-giving things that I’ve ever experienced. It doesn’t come without its challenges. There are frankly times, even stages when you’re tested by your child, and you find out what you’re made of.
I think our children all did an amazing job of sleeping through the night and the terrible two’s were non-existent with our children.
The only thing that we really had to contend with was the “Why” stage.
If you’re not a parent, let me try explaining the why stage. When it begins you can’t help but think your child is the most brilliant child on the planet because they’re asking questions and soaking up everything like a sponge. And, as a parent, you feel this burden to give your kids real engagement and to help them learn.
But a few months into the Why stage, the Why’s are unrelenting from the moment they wake until they go to sleep. By WHY #437, you’re toast, and, unfortunately, that’s usually at 10:17 am.
I’m going to follow this illustration to show you precisely why coaches don’t ask “Why” questions:
One thing about Why questions is that, at a certain point, people don’t want to answer them because they’re never simple.
They require long, detailed, explanations.
Sometimes it’s easier to cheat and give an oversimplified or even wrong answer just to get out of the real reason why.
And, most of the time, that cheat is to say: “I don’t know.”
Coaches who hear “I don’t know” all the time are likely asking Why questions.
A Why question forces the individual to go left brain and into analytical thinking.
As I tell our students all the time: analytical thinking is great for solving math problems or figuring out the best way to get around rush hour traffic because there are only a couple of options.
Analytical/Left brain thinking narrows options and naturally creates barriers to new ways of solving problems. It’s actually the very reason most people can’t get solutions in their lives to get the breakthrough they want. Most people reason these things over and over, and still can’t come to a decision.
This precisely why coaches stay away from the Why questions, and instead engaged the right side of the brain where the creativity to solve a problem actually lies.
Rather than a Why? We ask How? to stimulate new options for solving the problem.
Why’s are the kinds of questions that a counselor or therapist might ask. That’s because therapy is all about fixing something that is broken or dysfunctional in a person.
As I said in a previous “Mentor Monday: Stop counseling & start coaching:”
A lot of counseling gets preoccupied with the past as though there’s some sort of problem that needs to get solved.
However, in coaching, we are future-focused, and we believe the client is whole enough to move forward without dwelling on the past.
When a 3-year-old asks “Why?” it’s all about learning. But when an adult, a spouse, a boss, or anyone asks us a Why question, we tend to have a defensive reaction.
That’s because a Why question from anyone else is perceived as an individual taking a position of authority over us. As human beings, our wiring is to have autonomy and free will, so you can expect that another human being asserting authority over us is always going to result in our putting a wall up and feeling like we’ve got explain or prove ourselves in some way.
I mean think about it: when a spouse says “Why…” that defensive reaction kicks in because the other individual suspects they’re going to now be told the “right way to do something.”
As coaches, we’re not trying to be perceived as the expert or the authority in the relationship with our clients. It’s collegial. We actually recognize the client as brilliant, capable, creative, and an expert in their own life. So to avoid stepping into the wrong role, just avoid saying “Why?” altogether.
I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!
Please use the links in the author bio section to interact with us on social media. And Share! Share! Share! this article with others that could really benefit from it!