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What are questions for?

Submitted by on Thursday, 18 February 2010

Lately, I’ve noticed many people using the term Facilitative Questions when they really mean facilitating questions: they are using questions to help people think things through, to add some new thoughts that might persuade or influence them to consider different options. In sales, they are often used to get prospects to think about ‘needs’ in a way that might influence them to consider purchasing the potential vendor’s solution.

Facilitative Questions are used to help people re-weight their unconscious criteria so they can make new decisions that possibly achieve a new level of excellence according to their own standards – they do not influence, manipulate, push/pull, or bias in any way. Nor do they use ‘information’ as a basis.

Information – having it, sharing it, or receiving it – does not teach someone how to make a new decision: we (and our prospects) make decisions in accordance with our unique, private, weighted criteria that are sometimes (often) unconscious. And until or unless any new decision choices are agreed to by our status quo, no change will take place no matter how necessary.

WHAT IS A FACILITATIVE QUESTION?

Facilitative Questions actually work with the natural decision sequencing of the brain, and gather internal criteria in a way that makes new decisions and change possible.

Think of a time when you had a less-than-optimal habit, say, eating bad foods, or smoking, or procrastinating. I imagine that you had lots of data to let you know that you might have to choose different options. But you haven’t, and your old behaviors prevail regardless of how they may be harming you or others.

What would you need to believe differently to be willing to consider adding new options to the choices you’re making? And how would you know that any particular options would be more acceptable than others?

Those are Facilitative Questions. They:

  1. are posed in such a way that they actually teaches you where to look internally to  recognize and choose the criteria that is maintaining your current state, and the first place you’d need to address when beginning to consider change (change must begin with a belief change);
  2. are used to help you determine what you need to do differently to be able to bring in a new choice congruently;
  3. don’t gather or share data but helps you define your (possibly unconscious) criteria for choice;
  4. are part of a sequence of how brains decide – not as a one-shot influencing strategy;
  5. can potentially re-weight your (unconscious) criteria/beliefs so you can actually begin making new choices…. but based on your own criteria, not external information (which may unwittingly fight against something new).

Obviously, there are times when information-gathering is important, and using conventional questions is necessary. But for those times when you seek to help others take an action they haven’t taken to date – to make their own best decisions – it’s necessary for them to recognize and manage the internal criteria that are keeping the status quo in tact, and then take the further step of figuring out how to make a change that won’t disrupt the status quo.

Think about why you pose questions and how. How would you know that adding a new form of question to your selling or coaching skill set would help your prospects make the decisions they need to make to allow you to serve them?

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