When I’m talking to a professional about how to help their clients with conversations about change I frequently hear “I don’t know what questions to ask?” or “If I just knew how to ask the right questions I’m sure I would get more answers.”
What if it’s NOT about the questions?
We want our clients to talk about change, about their lives and be authentic in their conversations.
In reality, a question is looking at the problem from the OUTSIDE. But what about the INSIDE? How do you get to the inside and trust the person in front of you has the answers and wisdom inside of them for whatever change they need to make?
It’s called reflective listening.
You might be thinking “I’m already doing that.” But are you REALLY listening and doing reflections in such a way so that your client is going deeper to the well and searching for what makes them successful?
Stephen Rollnick, author of Motivational Interviewing, states that most people do not know how to give reflections, particularly complex reflections. Complex reflections add substantial meaning to what you are hearing, and give more passion to what your client is saying to encourage them to want to talk more.
Are you hearing the heart of what your client is stating, and reflecting it so you get more change talk, or momentum towards change? Are your reflections to questions in a 3/1 ratio? Multiple questions in a row can be more like an interrogation and result in mostly one word answers.
If you truly want more answers in your work, it may be time to reconsider whether the questions are leading to conversations about change or just filling the space of ambivalence. The good news is you won’t have to figure out what questions to ask since the client will tell you their truth and all you have to do is reflect it.