A power question is a question that is thought-provoking, and that gives power to conversations.
We all have friends and acquaintances that, whenever you meet them, they just talk about themselves and you feel like you can’t get a word in the conversation. Then there are other conversations that are always such interesting discussions. In those interesting discussions, the quality of the questions is usually particularly high. They often unearth either hidden assumptions or overt assumptions or beliefs or shared experience.
There is a formula that you can use to structure power questions.
- The first one to consider is that they invite introspection and reflection.
- Power questions are open-ended. That means they start with a ‘what’ or ‘how’, and they don’t end in a way that can be answered, ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
- Power questions move the client forward to greater insight, for example – ‘What makes it scary?’ or ‘What else?’.
- They invite the client to look inside or to the future – ‘What do you want?’ or ‘What will that get you?’
Recently, I was chatting with a friend of mine about renovating my garden. I’ve been talking about this for a while, and it’s been off the agenda, but now I said: ‘I’m going to start this week’. And the question that my friend asked me was: ‘What does starting look like?’. At first I thought I don’t actually know what starting looks like. But then I realised, I do know – I know what I have to do. And it was just something that moved me forward, and it’s in the context of gardening! It doesn’t necessarily have to be a deep emotional issue or context. It can be just something that it’s pushing the client or the friend forward. And this is often where gold lies.