Academy 4 Coaching

Training Professionals to Practice Legally


Breaking the Question Habit

Our society teaches us to ask inane questions that really don't require an answer. For example, try to remember the last time you asked or heard:

Our society teaches us to answer all questions with something like:

Most people don't take simple, mundane questions seriously. They do tend to take probing questions seriously and they feel like they're being accused, challenged, grilled and intimidated. When you question a client, that's how they tend to feel.

The research concerning the use of common mundane or probing questions is very clear. In a recent study conducted by NTCW, 113 clients were interviewed after their coaching session. A recording of their session was played back to them. While they were answering a question asked by the coach, the recording was stopped and they were asked how they felt while they answered that question.

By the third question, 68 test subjects (60%) felt uneasy about being asked questions. By the fifth question, 95 test subjects (84%) felt uneasy. After ten questions 104 test subjects (92%) felt uneasy.

In the second part of this study the same clients were interviewed following a coaching session where the coach asked no common probing questions. Instead, the coach made simple requests. After three requests, two test subjects (2%) felt uneasy. After five requests 9 test subjects (8%) felt uneasy. After ten requests 11 subjects (10%) felt uneasy

This study replicated similar studies done by other researchers with similar results. As expected, some coaches scored above, and some below, the group average. But all coaches scored better when making requests than by asking mundane questions.

Clients were ten times more likely to feel uneasy about being asked mundane questions than they were about being requested for information.

How to Break the Mundane Question Habit

First, do an internal audit when other people ask you a question and count how many questions it takes for you to feel uncomfortable. Don't be surprised to discover you feel comfortable when other people request information from you. But you feel uneasy when they ask five or fewer mundane questions.

On the average one or two simple questions are fine for most people. But after that you feel more and more uneasy with each mundane question. So do other people.

Then listen to yourself and become aware of how other people react to your questions and requests. Don't be surprised when other people are more talkative following a request

Once you prove to yourself that other people prefer requests to questions, stop asking.

You can do that in your practice group by following these rules:

  1. When I ask you a "Will you" or "Would you" question, the answer is always "No."
  2. When I ask you an " O.K." question, the answer is "No."
  3. When I ask you a "How, Why, Who, What, When or Where" question the answer is either "I don't know" or "I don't remember.
  4. When I ask you any question, the response can be "Please rephrase that."
  5. Help me learn to make simple requests.

Open Ended Questions

Some of our major competitors teach coaches to use open ended questions rather than requests. In our experience, it's far better to make requests than to ask questions during a coaching session. Our students tell us they obtain better results by making requests than asking questions.

But if you feel the need to ask a question, make it a good open ended question. Here are some examples of open ended questions as opposed to requests:

What have you accomplished with your project this week?
I'd like to know more about what you accomplished with your project this week.

Which approach worked best for you?
Please explain the approach that worked best for you.

When is the best time for you to do that and why?
I'd like to know when you want to do that and why.

How is your spouse (child, relative or friend) doing?
I wonder how your spouse (child, relative or friend) is doing.

When you want to ask an open ended question, we encourage you to change it to a request and see for yourself if you obtain better results with questions or requests.

The Exception

Asking a powerful empowering question and waiting for a response is one of the strongest coaching techniques you'll ever experience.

That statement is true if you normally do not ask any questions. The more questions you ask, the less powerful asking an empowering question becomes. The less questions you ask, the more powerful an empowering question becomes.

We suggest you try an empowering question after you complete twenty short chats -- but not before then. Learn how to empower your clients with requests first.

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Your Assignment

You will be ready for your oral examination as soon as you complete the required practice sessions for your Coaching Practicum. We encourage you to complete this requirement as soon as possible.


Making Requests

Active Listening Skills

Reflective Listening


Short Chat


Short Chat Schedule


Supporting, Endorsing and Thanking

Free Coach Tools

Free Coach Skills


Choices, Assignments and Contracts

Empowering Questions



Oral Examination


Empowering Coaching
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Successful completion of this workshop earns you 35 CEU for certification and/or licensing.