Using Language to point people in the right direction

I have always loved the ‘why’ question, so I was quite confronted one day when an NLP colleague asked – “is that useful for you?” Since then I have spent a lot of time exploring the nature of the questions we ask and have realised that “why did this happen?” sends us back into the past to look for underlying causes in order to understand. This is a different direction to the question “how can we work together to make this happen?” which aims us toward the future into which we want to succeed.

Last month I was running a workshop for a group where the “why” word was quite attractive to them, so I had to think about the directon in which that word was aiming before I trotted out my usualy maxim “avoid using ‘why’, it only encourages people to go back into their past to find justification“.

This group was different. They were actually pointing their “why” in the direction of the future – they wanted to know “why” the initiative / project / task was important to aim for, which was their way of asking “what will this do for me and the team?”

It just goes to remind me that you don’t know what question they heard you ask, until you hear their answer.

Want to learn about more future-directed questions?

Future Directed questions:

Where are you/we going (in your career, role, team, life)?

What are you/we most proud of at work?

What do you/we most enjoy doing?

Where are you now in relation to our future dreams?

What’s one step in the direction of our desired future?

What do we want to be doing in our team in a year’s time, that will challenge and nourish us?

What do we want others to be saying about our team?

What resources have got us to where we are now?

How have we coped, even in the hard times?

How can we get around this obstacle?

Who has done so before?

Where can we find support?

Who might be prepared to listen to us?

When can we find a little bit of time for reflection and preparation?

How will we know we are making progress?
What are good ways to celebrate our progress?

In closing, my question to you is “what questions can you ask more of, to head yourself and others into the future, rather than dwelling in the past?”

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