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Why I don't give answers: the mirage of the right way

Updated: Sep 7, 2021

One honest question is more powerful than a hundred right answers.

This is how coaching works.

A client comes wanting an answer.

I need this conversation to go well. What do I do? I want to get this promotion. How should I prepare? I have an incredible job offer. Should I move away from my family to take it?

This is where I refuse to answer. This is where the most powerful response is another question, one borne of true curiosity. This is also where it gets really uncomfortable.

It is quiet. The client is wondering. A thought surfaces.

More quiet. Sometimes prolonged. Very awkward.

She came for answers and the coach doesn’t have them.

There’s a pause. An insight. Thought patterns emerge.

More questions. Coach and client explore what and how and when.

The proverbial lightbulb flickers on.

The client starts to see the problem with new eyes.

The problem becomes simpler, something she can trust herself to resolve.

The promotion isn’t actually what she wants. What she wants is something she can already have, without an interview or a new resume.

The decision about the job isn’t one she’s ready to make because something else, something more important, surfaced and requires her more immediate and careful attention.

She commits to action.

We do it all the time. We look for answers.

Answers are great if you want to know how to clean your oven.

But my guess is the problem you're working through right now is even stickier than that.

THE ANSWER is a mirage. Believing it is out there keeps our feet stuck in the sand right here, keeps us from exploring and leveraging the things we can actually know – like what matters to us, what we need, what our reality is, and the power we have.

Questions create movement.

Questions open doors.

They are flickering lanterns, placed alongside us one by one, as we see where to place our feet next.

Questions help us see the problem differently, the possibilities within it, and the power we have to keep moving.

When you’re dealing with the tough stuff, it won’t help you to look for answers out there. Seek the question. Seek seeing. Seek movement. Finding your right way is an inside job. And you don't have to do it alone.

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