Powerful Questions: What's Up?

I've had powerful questions on the brain lately, so I often find myself going through the day, looking for them. I've got an example for you.

It's from the mouth of an eight-year old, and I hope it illustrates that powerful questions don't have to be wordy, complicated, or erudite. In fact, they are usually the opposite.

For for my son Wyatt's birthday party, we took him and some of his friends on a hike. One of his friends, Kyle, was lagging behind and didn't seem as engaged as the other kids. I had noticed, but decided to let it play out a bit. Wyatt noticed, too. He looped back from his trailblazing, put his arm around Kyle, and said, "What's up with you?" Turns out, Kyle just wasn't in a hiking sort of mood and told Wyatt that. The result of Wyatt's question was that they both felt more at ease, and Wyatt stopped worrying about whether Kyle felt left out or unhappy.

What if Wyatt had asked, "Are you having a good time?" Not a horrible question, certainly, but close-ended, and giving Kyle much less freedom to really describe what he was feeling. Kyle could have said "Yes" or "No," and Wyatt still wouldn't have gotten any peace of mind about Kyle's behavior.

What if Wyatt had asked, "Why are you lagging behind?" "Why" is tricky--it can get you information, but the information you get is often given in defensiveness. It prompts people to overly explain their actions or motive or suspect you're trying to sleuth around. Often, it doesn't express the care or curiosity that you want to express.

In my work with clients, I often find myself asking a version of Wyatt's question: "What's going on for you right now?" And I get all sorts of revealing answers that explore possibility, uncover frustration, or help us know where to go next. What powerful questions have you noticed lately?