Are you asking powerful questions?Featured

Have you ever been asked a question that makes you stop in your tracks? If you’re like me, your body feels arrested, but your mind flows like a rapids-filled river. New ideas, deeper considerations, and a renewed sense of possibility abound. It’s true that you’re most receptive to a question when you’re in the right brain space. “How are you?” could be quite profound if we let it, but we’ve conditioned ourselves to share perfunctory answers. But it’s also true that even when we’re in the position to reflect deeply, the questions we’re asked don’t push us to do so.Consider a situation in which you tell a friend about a challenge at work. Even if your friend asks you a question, it’s frequently a veiled suggestion. “Have you talked to your boss?” “Did you tell your coworker what happened?” These lead you down a path, not let you take in a vista of opportunity.A-ha moments could happen more often — we just need to learn how to draw them out. In fact, that’s one of the goals of my startup, Topknot ( We’ve built technology and community around bringing every woman the best of coaching so that they can experience daily epiphanies — big and small — through the consistent use of powerful questions.What are powerful questions?Powerful questions are thought-provoking and open ended questions that make people think differently about something. There’s an irony to powerful questions in that they are often best when they’re phrased simply. I mean, To be, or not to be?, amirite?Simple, powerful questions should not be able to be answered in a simple yes or no. If they’re used to lead the answerer down a particular path, they lose their efficacy. Above all else, they must be asked with genuine curiosity.Powerful questions in practicePowerful questions can be used in a range of contexts, and are particularly well-suited to drive clarity, choice, and commitment. When powerful questions are used to create clarity, they identify underlying motivations and barriers. Some examples include:Why is that important to you? What is holding you back?When used to examine choice, powerful questions reveal possible paths forward or allow for the consideration of new perspectives. Some examples include:How do you feel about your decision?What else could be true?Lastly, when exploring commitments, powerful questions help design an action plan and consider supports necessary to follow through. Some examples include:What is something you want to commit to?Where might obstacles arise?These questions may seem obvious, but take practice to form. Luckily there are no perfect or “right”questions. The best ones are formed when the person asking is focused on who’s sharing. Powerful questions in actionLet’s go back to the challenging conversation about work. Imagine if the question asked of you was “What would be most helpful to you right now?” In a genuinely curious state, you’d take a moment to consider a range of possible acts, prioritize them, and put one or two forward. With more time, you could choose to explore each path more fully — a single question cascading into an adventure. Now that’s powerful.It seems only appropriate to end this love note to powerful questions with one: What do you want to be asked? (Put ideas and reactions in the comments!)
👋🏻 If you're excited about what @claires shared in this post, we're running two free workshops this week around getting clarity on a goal (using powerful questions!) if you want to learn more about the Topknot process. Sign up here:
I've recently also noticed the effect of asking powerful questions. Instead of just nodding on and asking veiled questions, I've realized asking genuine curious questions, helps the other person reflect on their situation and start thinking towards figuring out an action plan regarding the situation they are in, rather than just ranting about it (Although that is also therapeutic at times)Asking yourself powerful questions leads you to a path of discovering your ideals, beliefs, values. Getting to know what you believe in, who you are to you, your choices and actions, etc. All of these powerful questions, when reflected upon, help you get to know yourself. I just joined the elpha community and this post was the first thing I saw. It really made me examine my thoughts and contemplate. Thank you for this post. :)
Thank you for this reply! I resonate with so much, including that the occasional rant is necessary. I'm glad the post spoke to you.
Thank you for this post! I agree with your sentence about the best questions being formed when we are focused on who's sharing. The most powerful questions come from actively listening to someone to understand them rather than to simply respond - which I feel is what happens in most conversations.Also just signed up for your workshop! I'm excited :)
Yay on both accounts. See you Sunday.
I was super excited to see this post! As a journalist and UX designer/researcher asking good questions is key, but oftentimes we think it's something easy to do, while the opposite is the case. I created a free mini online course for anyone looking for an asynchronous experience. I cover the difference between open and closed-ended questions, how to compose neutral open-ended questions, and format them with curiosity in mind in order to gain insight into the users' point of view,
Powerful questions in the wild! Thanks for sharing this resource.
Thank you for bringing up this very important topic! It's always wonderful to see others get excited about asking good powerful questions as much as I do.
This is so important! We're conditioned to give "the answer" more frequently than we realize, even veiled as questions. It's something I'm working on, personally - and it takes real practice (plus putting your ego on the back-burner).
👏 that 👏 awareness 👏