What Veiled Magic Hath the Question?

What Veiled Magic Hath the Question?

Did you know that Indira Gandhi said:

“The power to question is the basis of all human progress.”?

What’s the most useful opening question in fostering understanding? How about “What would you like to have happen?”?

Have you tried using this question yourself, and under what circumstances?

What responses does it typically elicit? And how does it affect the dynamic of the relationships between the asker, the askees, and the (group’s, team’s, or organisation’s) “collective psyche”?

How would you feel if I told you about my recent experience with this and other “facilitative questions“?

When you ask questions, do folks see the answers as the goal, or do they appreciate the veiled magic of questions – that is, the mental state and reflection they induce in the person being asked the question? Did you realise, for example (as suggested by Patterson et al in Crucial Conversations) that when answering questions, the circulation of blood in the brain changes away from the Amygdala (fight-or-flight lizard brain) to the cerebellum (rational thinking part of the brain)?

– Did you realise Bob wrote this?

How About Some Other Related Things to Read?

What Are Questions For? ~ Sharon Drew Morgen
Is Less More? ~ Penny Tompkins and James Lawley
The Art of Powerful Questions – Article by Eric E. Vogt, Juanita Brown, and David Isaacs
The Interrogative Mood ~ Padgett Powell
This Question Could Change Many Of Your Habits ~ Dr Jeremy Dean

  1. I use the similar “What would that give you?” and have found it effective to build shared understanding, unearthing assumptions & reasoning while also moving from positions to interests.

    Word of caution though, judging from my own troubles answering such questions don’t go this route unless you’re honestly interested in the answer & shared learning. Make sure to leave space for surprise & confusion.

    • Hi Torbjörn,

      Do you realise how grateful I am for your insightful contribution to this conversation? 🙂

      Would you like to relate any specific stories about the “surprise and confusion” you mention?

      – Bob

  2. This is definitely something worth thinking about.
    I’m glad I took the time to check this out.

    I feel like I always ask myself “What good will this do?” or “How will this affect me/others?”
    I feel like that really helps me get a fuller understanding of any situation that I find myself in.


  3. When I am asked to facilitate a crucial conversation, I like to start with this question:
    “What do you think the person next to/in front of you expects from this conversation?”
    Asks for empathy and conceptualisation of my feelings about another’s emotions…
    To inspire creativity and storytelling, I use StoryCubes (http://www.storycubes.com/) and let people tell a story integrating some of the pictures on the dice.
    The dice help people to get started in a playful way, and it’s especially useful to break the ice when people expect a conversation they would rather like to avoid… These cubes work wonders for lots of other questions, too. Highly recommended:-)
    Thanks for the inspiring post!

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