We live in an “exclamation point” world.  High-volume sound bites from talking heads, pundits, and know-it-alls are everywhere.  There are more and more days when I long for one good question rather than another barrage of over-caffeinated demands.

I like the humility of coaching questions.  I want to give them center stage and let them channel my conversations with others into deeper waters.  I prefer the discernment and discovery of questions to the decibels and din of the shouters.

Questions have near-magical powers.  Lawyers’ questions are called interrogatives, literally meaning “to ask between.”  That’s what I hunger for—asking between persons.  Questions invite an open quest for clarity.  In our English language, questions introduce a note of wonderment, a taste of possibility.  Questioning exchanges have miraculous powers to open new, unexpected discoveries in our lives.  How exactly do questions create magic?

Questions command attention.  They are the stop signs and “pause” buttons of conversation. In a “full speed ahead” culture, questions bring the action to a full stop.  Direct questions interrupt word flow, put it in freeze frame, and may even reverse it.  You can almost “see” questions’ brake lights.

Questions raise expectations.  There’s a change of direction on the way. We can actually hear the impending shift audibly.  Questions end with raised vocal inflections, right?  Their distinctive slide up the tonal scale catches our ear and focuses our attention.  Like a blinking turn signal, questions alert us that a new road lies ahead for our choosing.

Questions signal handoffs.  They call out to the listener, “It’s your turn in the conversational relay.” Questions give three implicit gifts to conversations.  They make an admission, “I don’t know this answer.”  Then, they welcome a response, “But, you know answers.  What are they?”  Finally, they make a promise, “You talk.  I’ll listen and learn.”

We recognize our coaching conversations are in magical territory (or on holy ground) when our questions trigger a long pause.  Then, we hear our exploration partner say “I never thought of that,“ or “I’ve never said it like that.”  In the first case, the question has illuminated a blind spot or made us sort beyond our autopilot of mental responses.  In the second case, we’ve discovered unexplored edges or found ourselves shocked by the surprises of the unanticipated.  In both cases, we arrived at this junction on the magic carpet of questions.

Welcome. Ready for the magic of discovery?  Your question?