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As coaches should we ask the "why" question?

Updated: Nov 5, 2018

The role of the coach is to support and challenge our coachees to gain new insight. However is the Why question too aggressive?

Should we hide away from asking the difficult question?

Running a recent workshop for a client one of the delegates informed us that in their organisation they were told not use questions beginning with the prefix Why. Obviously being playful we had to ask the question...why?

During coaching if you ask people the why question is it interpreted as aggressive? That is certainly what one of clients told us recently.

In being respectful to the client and the culture we remained curious and explored this premise with the group. Through an interactive discussion we identified that the organisation felt that too many "why" questions can be seen as aggressive, intimidating and almost interrogative. We shared our view...


Coaching is about style

The coach is not interviewing the coaches or trying to catch them out which might be the presupposition of the outcomes of a style that is aggressive, intimidating and interrogative. True coaching is about allowing individuals to explore what they think and feel and to do this they often have to explore their beliefs. Beliefs are best explore with the "why" question. There is a huge difference between "why did you say that" which may be viewed as interrogative depending on voice, tone rapport etc.. and "why do you feel that is important to you", which offers the coachee the opportunity to reflect and construct the beliefs around the subject of the question. Spending time enabling people to explore rather than justify is the difference between an average coach and a great coach. We often explain this difference using the concept of logical levels. Explaining that the "why" question sits firmly alongside the belief level in what we describe as above the line coaching. "When", "what" and "how" are great question to move people to actions and commitment however helping them understand for themselves "why" delivers real change.


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