As coaches, we’ve all learned the value in asking those open-ended questions. You know…. the ones that are meant to promote discovery… to expand the conversation rather than to shut it off. We try to avoid those yes/no questions lest the “coachee” answer with a simple yes or no.

That has always seemed a good enough reason to avoid those types of questions – making sure we don’t stifle the conversation.

Lately, however, I’ve become increasingly aware of another – maybe even a more beneficial – reason for avoiding the closed-end yes/no question.


It seems to me that yes/no questions can have the effect of dampening hope, while those open-ended questions are great opportunities to instill hope.

In a coaching conversation several months ago, my coach asked me a question that sounded something like this:

“Well Bill, is there anyone who could help you with that?”

I don’t remember my response, but I remember wondering to myself IF there was anyone… and I quickly dismissed it in my mind….convinced that I didn’t have any options there.

Then a few minutes later, he asked another question:

“Bill, who would be the best person to help you with that?”

The subtle difference in that question made all the difference in the world to me. I began thinking about who I might enlist to help me with the project and came up with a list of four people I could ask.

He asked essentially the same question both times… but the slight difference in HOW he asked the question was significant to me. The first question allowed me to believe there was no help out there for me. The second one created an expectation that SOMEONE out there COULD help. It gave me hope!

After reflecting on that conversation, I was sold on the idea that yes/no questions dampened hope, while open-ended questions instilled hope. I’ve incorporated that principle into my coaching and have seen the power it brings to those conversations.

How are you using open-ended questions?

What other ways are you bringing hope into the lives of those you are coaching?

What examples to you have of times when you’ve been given hope in a coaching conversation?

What will you do next?