One of my favorite questions is “What works?” In other words, what methods will give me the results I desire?
“What works?” is a question we should ask in every area of life – succeeding at work, helping others succeed at work, building a strong marriage, parenting children, staying organized, improving our health, building strong communities, managing the national economy, you-name-it.
We can even apply that question to the other questions in life. Then, the question becomes, “What questions work well for us?” These are the questions we need to ask every day. And we should also be aware of harmful questions that lead us away from our desired goals. Some good and harmful questions come from Dr. Marilee G. Adams, author of the book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, and I’ve written many others.
Some people refer to the beneficial questions as “learner questions,” because they demonstrate a desire to learn and grow. And they refer to the harmful or less productive questions as “judger questions,” because they produce very harsh, critical judgments, which in turn produce negative feelings and diminished success.
So, let’s look at a few options for question asking, as we navigate our daily lives at work and at home. I think the benefits will be obvious to you.
Judger asks, “Who’s to blame here?” Learner asks, “What can I and others do to improve things?”
Judger asks, “How should I tell him he screwed up?” Learner asks, “Can I clearly explain how I would like things done the next time?”
Judger asks, “What’s wrong in this environment?” Learner asks, “What’s right in this environment, and how can we do more of that?”
Judger asks, “How can I look superior?” Learner asks, “What can I learn? And how can I help others?”
Judger asks, “How can I prove I’m right?” Learner asks, “What are the facts? What is the full truth? What is wise? What is the best thing for us to do right now?”
Judger asks, “How can I attack him or make him feel bad?” Learner asks, “How can I build him up, encourage him, guide him, and also enforce some boundaries when needed?”
Judger asks, “How can I control others?” Learner asks, “How can I control myself and maintain a healthy boundary?”
Judger asks, “How will I be hurt?” Learner asks, “How can I help others?”
Judger asks, “How can I defend myself in the face of criticism?” Learner asks, “What truth is there in this criticism, if any? Am I being honest with myself? And how can I help Judger to feel understood?” Only after this preliminary, open-minded analysis and good communication does Learner move forward to defending himself/herself as needed.
Judger asks, “How can I get an immediate answer for everything?” Learner asks, “Can I temporarily endure the discomfort of not having everything figured out?”
Judger desperately asks, “How can I eliminate imperfection in others?” Learner patiently asks, “Can I simultaneously accept what is, while still working towards needed improvement?”
Judger asks, “What should be rejected?” Learner asks, “What can be accepted or negotiated?”
Judger asks either-or questions and suggests false dilemmas. Learner considers both-and questions. For example, Judger asks, “Which of us is right?” Learner asks, “In what ways are we both right?”
Judger asks, “How can I win out over this other person?” Learner asks, “How can we both win? And what are the best options for each of us?”
Judger asks a lot of questions about things outside of his control. Learner asks a lot of questions about the things under his control.
Judger asks, “How can I avoid change?” Learner asks, “How can I manage change well?”
Judger asks, “How can I protect my turf?” Learner asks, “What are the highest goals for this organization or family? Am I working toward those goals?”
Judger asks, “How could I lose in this situation?” Learner asks, “What could I gain?”
Judger asks, “Why is that other person so dense?” Learner asks, “What does this person need from me and others in order to do better?”
Judger asks, “Why bother to try?” Learner asks, “What is possible?”
Judger often clings to the question, “What do we usually do?” Learner asks, “What options haven’t I considered? What limitations have I placed on my thinking? How else can I think about this?”
Judger asks, “How has this hurt me?” Learner asks, “What’s useful about this? How is it helping me to grow, even though it might be painful?”
Judger secretly and continuously asks himself, “What’s wrong with me?” Learner isn’t afraid of that question but also asks, “What’s right about me, and how am I working on improving?”
Judgers tend to react emotionally and out of ingrained habit; learners strive to respond with self-control and prethought. Judgers tend to feel powerless; learners are growing in their sense of personal power. Judgers often feel fear; learners are growing in faith, trust, and personal responsibility. Judgers often have a scarcity mentality; learners see abundance.
It’s useful to ask ourselves on a daily basis whether we’ve fallen into judger mode, which tends to be our natural state, or whether we’ve climbed into learner mode. Every day we can decide which we prefer. And we can ask ourselves, “What can help me get back into learner mode, or stay in learner mode?”
I could present a list of benefits for operating in learner mode more often. But why not conduct your own experiment and see what happens?
© 2012 Caryl D. Schlicher A Bridge To Excellence
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