Jacky Leonard's blog

Archive entries for: Jan-2013

Don't ask me why

Categories:  Business Coaching, Effective Communication, Training & Coaching

I'm not a huge fan of the word WHY in a coaching or leadership context...let me explain my reasons.  It's often delivered in a way that sounds confrontational, accusatory and overly challenging. It invariably sends the recipient into defensive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive mode and it can therefore inhibit the brains capacity for problem solving. It's also a lazy probing question. There are so many other, more effective ways of information gathering.

I'm all for challenging; I think it's healthy to push yourself, or be pulled out of your comfort zone; It's usually when most learning takes place. However, I believe there are more effective ways of getting answers, or kick starting a person's reflective processes than why.  You have to build rapport and have a person's trust before you can ask why and expect a well formed answer.  I’m not suggesting you never use it, merely that you apply it thoughtfully.  When you do believe it’s appropriate consider how you will frame and tone it for best effect.  So what questions could you ask to illicit information, or get someone into a reflective state in a non-confrontational manner?

How about these starters for 10?

  • What was the reason...
  • How did that happen...
  • What caused you to...
  • Tell me about...

These are less aggressive and also offer the subliminal suggestion that there are solutions to each question, if your recipient takes a little time to think.

So how and when will you replace why for a better outcome?