Got a Decision to Make? {The Grove: Questions}

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.

Broaden

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.

Deepen

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?

Clarify

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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23 Comments

  1. Jenilee August 26, 2016

    The link I added isn’t really questions but maybe more how God answered a few questions for me… thanks for this list of great questions to ask!

    1. Patty Stallings August 26, 2016

      His answers to our questions are always welcome! So glad you shared with us on your post link up!

      1. Linda Spakrman September 23, 2020

        Patty,
        Is it possible to put this article or a modified version of it on our LDHR.org site? We’d love to have you as a guest blogger.. . .always have people transitioning. What is your email address?
        Linda

  2. Elizabeth August 26, 2016

    Thank you for these wonderful and useful questions Patty! I am going to bookmark this and save it for later.

    Talking things out with someone else, out loud, is SO helpful. I forget about how much I need it sometimes, and I’ll just tend to live in my head, having conversation with only me, myself, and I. In fact, just today I was able to have an out loud conversation with a friend who asked good questions and really helped me see some new things in my situation. My husband can do it too, but only if I ask him specifically to act in that role (“It’s not about the nail!” comes to mind).

    Also, as I get older I have more people seeking me out to play this kind of role in their lives, and since it’s a new role for me, I want all the resources I can find to help teach me how to be this kind of person for someone else! So thanks again.

    1. Patty Stallings August 26, 2016

      I love the “it’s not about the nail” video!
      I want to encourage you, Elizabeth, as you consider how to grow in the ministry of listening. Listening well is both a skill and a mindset. And it is a such a sweet and powerful gift to give a friend – to create that space for thinking and reflecting. I have found the best questions come from what I just heard the other person say. To simply draw out more.
      Another resource you might like is Leadership Coaching, also by Tony Stoltzfus.

      1. Elizabeth August 26, 2016

        Thanks Patty! I put that other coaching book on my amazon list too 🙂

      2. Elizabeth August 26, 2016

        Also — yes, the questions, that is exactly what my friend did for me, and what I want to learn how to do too. Thank you for the insight that the best questions come from what people just said — I will tuck that away for later!

  3. Jenn August 26, 2016

    So helpful!!! We are (or I am) in a spot with big decisions to make. And it’s a departure from how people want us to be and how the expat culture here operates. I think my husband and I will work through these.
    I have found it a HUGE blessing to have someone here who takes time to listen to me. She has a totally different frame of reference than I do, and speaks truth into my life.
    And as Elizabeth said, people are starting to come to me as I get older. It’s overwhelming since I still feel like a bumbling teenager in my mind, so this list of questions is so helpful!

    Thank you!

    1. Elizabeth August 26, 2016

      Jenn — yes! I keep thinking, I am not old enough to help anyone!! I don’t have much figured out in my own life!! But I know the 20-year old me would have looked up to a 35 year old woman, and that’s what I am, so I think I will answer the call to be there for others in this way!

      Grace and peace to you as you make your upcoming decisions.

      1. Patty Stallings August 26, 2016

        I like to think of listening well as “nurturing wisdom” in another person – a little different than giving or sharing wisdom. A lot less pressure and often more helpful. 🙂

    2. Patty Stallings August 26, 2016

      I hope you and your husband will find working through these questions to be helpful, Jenn.
      What a blessing to have a friend who really listens and helps you gain perspective! I like Dietrich Bonhoffer’s statement that the first act of love toward another is to listen to him/her.

  4. Beth Everett August 26, 2016

    This is so timely! Thank you Patty! And thanks for the book recommendation – just this week I was wondering how I could grow in this area, and if there were any good books or courses I could read/take. Very helpful!!

    1. Patty Stallings August 26, 2016

      Thanks, Beth. If you are interested in getting coach training, CMI has several options of levels of training. Full disclosure – I am a trainer for the MCT and LLCT programs. 🙂 What I love about CMI is 1) the commitment to make training and coaching accessible for cross cultural workers, 2) the values CMI is built upon, 3) the amazing people our Father draws to this organization.

      1. Beth Everett August 26, 2016

        Will definitely check it out!! Thanks!!

        1. Patty Stallings August 29, 2016

          My pleasure!

          1. linda September 22, 2020

            Great to see your wisdom being shared, Patty!
            Linda Sparkman

  5. Nicholas T. August 29, 2016

    Great questions, Patty. I’ll be using some of these tomorrow!

    1. Patty Stallings August 29, 2016

      I hope they produce fruit. Blessings!

  6. linda September 22, 2020

    Great to see your wisdom being shared, Patty!
    Linda Sparkman

    1. Patty Stallings September 22, 2020

      Thanks, Linda. So many wonderful memories popped into my mind when I saw your name! Much love to you and Ben and your family!

  7. Linda Spakrman September 23, 2020

    Patty,
    Is it possible to put this article or a modified version of it on our LDHR.org site? We’d love to have you as a guest blogger.. . .always have people transitioning. What is your email address?
    Linda

  8. Patty Stallings September 23, 2020

    Hey Linda, I just sent you a message to your email. Thanks – I’d love to share this with others.

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