Linguistics – Language

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When we ask questions it is very important that we understand what the question does to someone’s mind and therefore use the most effective question for the outcome we are interested in. 

Let’s look at the question ‘Why?’ – Why questions help people justify a current belief system and find evidence to support it. Many people do not understand this and therefore ask ‘why questions’ inappropriately. 

For example is you asked a child: ‘Why didn’t you do your homework?’ They may say: ‘Because I forgot’ – If you then asked: ‘Why did you forget?’ They may say: ‘I don’t know, I suppose I am just not good at remembering things.’ Now the child has just created and embedded a disempowering belief about themselves.

Let’s look at how this conversation might have gone with different questioning skills. ‘Did you do your homework?’ child answers ‘No.’ If you then ask: ‘What can we do to ensure that you get your homework done?’ or ‘How can we make sure that you do your homework?’ Suddenly the child is put in the role of the expert on themselves looking for solutions. If the child doesn’t know the answers to these questions you can ask more specific ‘yes/no’ questions until you can pin-point exactly what is causing the child not to do their homework, while embedding positive messages like being able to remember and do it easily eg ‘Did you remember that it was due?’, ‘Did you find it easy to start?’, ‘Was there something in the instructions that you didn’t understand clearly?’

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