My two key coaching questions…

By Alice Johnsen.

In my coaching sessions, clients do most of the talking.
My role is to listen with focus and an open mind, ready to ask questions that push the issue forward. Sometimes the questions bring about small steps, sometimes they are turning points. Or sometimes they just get my clients to look at issues in a new way.
My two favourite questions – that you can use in any part of your life without waiting for a coaching session, are ‘why’ and ‘so what’. These two questions are the ones I ask most often and with greatest effect. Here’s why.
Why? As in: Why did that person say that? Why doesn’t my team listen to me? Why do I feel frustrated about this business? Why am I procrastinating away from that decision? Why am I holding back?
Stopping to think about the reason behind an issue brings clarity. With clarity comes acceptance, understanding, a new way of seeing through the problem.
But it is not automatic. We get too caught up in the issue itself to see through the distracting emotion or built up layers of reaction to see the true reason. When that happens, we’re not ‘doing anything wrong’ – it’s just how our minds work. But we can help ourselves by asking ‘why?’.
So what? Asking this pushes us to think beyond our immediate reactions to the steps that follow. It takes us further down a way of thinking or to a new idea. Great not only for developing plans or moving away from current blockages but for a more effective way of managing our everyday lives.
I remember this question being particularly helpful for a GCSE student revising last year. They were always being asked to ‘expand their answers’ – remember that one?! All very well if you know you have more to say but if not, asking yourself ‘so what’ pushes your thoughts further.
And in daily life it is helpful when it comes to planning logistics or administration because it helps us move through a problem in a logical way. We can use the question ‘so what?’ to help us think through things thoroughly and carefully as well as to push the boundaries of our original thought.
Try these questions when you are next feeling stuck or aware you are putting something off or when you next have to make plans. I hope they help you.

Alice Johnsen is a life coach. Phone: 07961 080513; visit

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