Debunking the Magic Question: Striving for Curious Questions - International Coaching Federation

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Debunking the Magic Question: Striving for Curious Questions

Posted by Hani Bahwireth, PCC, Ph.D. | March 10, 2021 | Comments (3)

Many coaches have searched for the magic question that will give them superpower to dramatically help their clients find the best solution to their problemsOftenthe coach is keen to keep a list of memorized coaching questions for use in various scenarios with different clients on a variety of topics. This approach to coaching unfortunately leads to ineffective results because the coach is too focused on questions rather than on the client, context and the moment of realization.   

For instance, during one of my coaching sessions, I asked a client: “What would you do if you had enough money to live your life without needing to work?” This question was wellreceived and made a huge impact on my client because it helped him to expose his real issue. I was delighted, and I thought my question had magic in it. Then, I posed the same question to another client and received a completely different response.  The difference caused me to pause and reflect between a “curious” question and a so-called “magic” question. 

My conclusion is that no question has predetermined magic in it unless the coach takes into account the extra contributing factors, including the client, topic, context and flowIn particular:  

  • When is the question asked in the coaching session?  
  • How is the question asked and for what purpose?  
  • How is the question received by the client at that moment, and how it is interpreted? 

As coacheswe cannot always rely on a list of memorized questions. We must stay curious enough to generate more thought-provoking questions as a response to what is being shared here and now. Coaching is a generative conversation rather than a series of questions and answers. Tbe present while working with our clients, curiosity is a prerequisite for coaching questions to be interactive and powerful 

Curious” is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as “wanting to know or learn about something. Being curious when asking our questions means we are neither judgmental nor expecting a certain answerOn the contrary, we are becoming more welcoming and open to unknown space and have the questioning ability that allows us to navigate the client’s thinking in the best possible wayQuestions are not fixed or linear processesThey are better understood as dynamic processes which require deep engagement with the client with respect to factors such as issue, context, way of thinking, feelings, assumptions, beliefs, values and identity.  

Curious questions can be seen as a way of aiding the highest levels of motivation, partnering with the client to discover what is going on in their life instead of playing the role of the expert. Throughout the past 13 years in the coaching field, I have realized that questions will be more powerful when we as coaches move from focusing on the topic to being present with our client – from memorizing a list to constructing our questions. From searching for the right answer to partnering with the client in an effort to explore possibilities. From waiting for our turn to raise the next question, to embracing the pause.  

Headshot of author Hani Bahwireth, PCC, Ph.D.

Hani Bahwireth, PCC, Ph.D.

Hani BahwirethPCC, Ph.D., is passionate about enabling leadership and coaches to bring out the best in others by spreading coaching across the Arab world. His contribution to the coaching literature in the Middle East is remarkably recognized through his coaching training handbooks, reports and products. 

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

Comments (3)

  1. You are absolutely right Dr. Hani. The fully equipped coach will work like a maestro maintaining the flow of the coaching session from several point of view. Also as you mentioned in your article (how the questions asked play major role as well as the timing.
    Your effort is highly appriciated Dr. Hani.

  2. Ghada Alhassan says:

    ‏More than wonderful article, Dr. Hany, yes, there is no magic question or miracle question
    ‏ The distinguished coach is the one who deduces the question from the coachee words .. Its impact is stronger and its results are strong .. The curiosity of the coach is not for the purpose of collecting information .. The curiosity of the coach should be positive to expand the coachee awareness and thinking and the participation of the coachee by exploring the possibilities.

  3. to.ghada@gmail.com says:

    ‏More than wonderful article, Dr. Hany, yes, there is no magic question or miracle question
    ‏ The distinguished coach is the one who deduces the question from the coachee words .. Its impact is stronger and its results are strong .. The curiosity of the coach is not for the purpose of collecting information .. The curiosity of the coach should be positive to expand the coachee awareness and thinking and the participation of the coachee by exploring the possibilities.

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