A glorious side benefit of being a coach trainer is knowing lots of gifted life and leadership coaches. So when I am circling round and round in a particular thought pattern when trying to make a decision, a chat with a coach tends to knock loose whatever mode of thinking I’ve been stuck in. But what if you don’t have a coach? Well, you can enlist a friend to ask questions to help you explore new territory. Lay a few ground rules such as “don’t try to fix me” and request your friend simply ask some of the questions below and listen as you explore aspects of the decision you are facing. Verbalizing thoughts to someone who is genuinely listening often generates a solution previously not landed on – even if you have spent hours mulling it over on your own – by broadening, deepening, and clarifying your thinking.
Expanding the scope of factors playing into a decision might result in a different perspective or inclusion of key factors you hadn’t previously considered. Try these questions to broaden your thinking.
- Who else could/should speak into this?
- Who will be most impacted by this decision? How could you include them? Which option would they choose? Why?
- How will this decision affect your organizational or family culture?
- What is pushing the timing of this decision? What would happen if the timeline was slowed down, speeded up, or shifted in some way?
- Which factor plays the biggest part in determining the outcome? What if that factor was not a part of this decision – what would you decide then?
- How does your personality influence how you are making this decision? What would someone with a different personality type do?
Broadening questions can bring in past experiences, present realities, and desired future outcomes. Other effective questions for broadening your thinking are questions about patterns and trends and “what if” questions considering a variety of perspectives.
At times what we need most is to pay attention to what is going on underneath the surface. Questions that deepen our thinking access our emotions or intuition – the more nebulous aspects of decision making. By exploring what is going on inside, new insights and understanding have an opportunity to rise to the surface. Try these.
- What is driving this decision?
- What is your “gut” telling you?
- What values are being tapped into or rubbed against as you consider options?
- What is going on inside as you consider the various options? How does your response inform you about what’s really going on?
- What emotions are being triggered? Where’s that coming from?
- What is it you really desire in the outcome of this decision?
- If you had to guess what the Father is wanting for you, what would you say?
The above questions can help you think more deeply and broadly. They are a start. But having someone really listening well to your responses and then asking thoughtful follow-up questions based on what you have said can move you even further in clarifying your thoughts.
- You mentioned ________ as the likely outcome. That sounds like the immediate consequence. What about long range implications?
- Why is making a good decision here important? And why is that important to you?
- If you choose to take that step, how will it impact your relationships with those involved? What can you do to enhance or mitigate that impact?
- If the particular obstacle you mentioned wasn’t there, what decision would you make?
- You’ve been thinking about the cost of taking this step. What will it cost you/your family/your organization if you continue to delay this decision?
- How will you know this is the decision you can embrace?
Better Decisions, More Commitment, Less Regret
Questions create a conversational space to explore, and the result is often a clarity we had trouble finding on our own. It may have been that we were thinking within narrow parameters or hadn’t fully considered the implications of a decision. I find probing a little deeper and expanding my thinking is the key to fresh insight and clarity…and better decisions that I am more committed to and don’t tend to regret. If you’d like to pursue more questions like these, you might like Coaching Questions by Tony Stoltzfus. If you are interested in finding a coach, check out our resources page. What do you find helpful when you have a tough decision to make? Do you have any questions you would add to the list? Parts of this article first appeared at CMI.
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