How would you define meaningful questions

Systemic questions: whoever asks leads

The conversation is bogged down, the discussion has been going in circles for hours, the problem just doesn't seem to be solvable. Whatever you do, you simply can't get anywhere with the person you're talking to - or in a team. Dead end. Such situations can arise in the best teams and conversations. Although they are not pleasant, they can be resolved quickly by asking systemic questions. To do this, however, you need to know and master this. We show you how systemic questions work, which questioning techniques are particularly important and give you many examples to bring you closer to systemic questions ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Definition: Systemic questions as food for thought

In contrast to normal questions, systemic questions are not primarily about gaining knowledge from the questioner. Systemic questions serve much more to draw the interlocutor's attention to new possibilities, to stimulate thought and to leave the beaten track. Systemic questions are often used by coaches and consultants, for example, to help clients reflect on themselves, question behavior patterns and develop new approaches. The method is therefore also suitable for revitalizing stuck discussions in teams and dissolving mental blocks. Some of the questions even work best in a group setting.

3 principles of systemic questions

In order for the use of systemic questions to be successful, three principles must be observed when applying:

  1. As soon as you use the method and actively ask, you de facto take over leading the conversation. If you are not allowed or should not do this from your official or formal position in the hierarchy or in the team, you should clarify this with your boss in advance.
  2. Systemic questions can be thought-provoking, but can also be misunderstood. It is therefore imperative that you pay attention to unambiguous formulations that no one feels personally attacked.
  3. If you want to get others to break away from well-established patterns, you should bring this flexibility with you as well. It doesn't fit together if you ask your colleagues to think again, but then dismiss all ideas as unrealistic.

As with any method, the systemic questioning requires some practice before it is used for the first time. If you feel confident after test conversations with friends or acquaintances, this method can be of excellent service to you in everyday work and in a team.

Questioning techniques: who, what, when, where, how, why, for what?

In addition to the classic W questions (who, what, when, where, how, why, what for) a distinction is made between two different questioning techniques or types of questions:

  • Closed questions: You can usually only answer with "Yes" or "No" (Have you already finished your presentation?).
  • Open questions: They leave the respondent leeway in answering and encourage him to tell (What is your presentation doing?)

Regardless of whether you are conducting an employee interview, having an interview or having some small talk with your counterpart: Both questioning techniques - especially for queries - should be part of your regular repertoire.

Systemic questions: 8 questioning techniques

Several types of questions are distinguished within the framework of systemic questions. Each question has a function. In the practical application, the different types of questions are combined with each other as required in order to steer the conversation or discussion in the individually meaningful direction. In the following, we will introduce you to the six most common types of systemic questions:

Circular questions

These questions are used to look at the current situation from a different perspective and thereby develop new ideas and approaches. In this way, one's own ways of thinking can be better questioned and other perspectives can be recognized and understood. These questions are particularly effective when the people whose perspective is to be taken are present. Then not only can the respondent leave his or her perspective, the named person also receives indirect feedback about their effect on others. The advantage of circular questions is the specific request to put yourself in someone else's shoes. The person asked has to leave his own point of view and allow a new way of looking at things.

10 examples of circular questions:

  • How would your boss see and judge that?
  • Do you think your boss would be happy with that?
  • How would a colleague react to this suggestion?
  • How would a neutral observer rate that?
  • How would your partner feel about that?
  • What behavior would your employer expect?
  • What would your friends advise you to do?
  • Why did the other react like that?
  • What reaction do you expect from your customer?
  • What would be the first answer your partner would give?

Solution-oriented questions

Far too often questions in discussions revolve around the problem and deficits of a project or situation. With solution-oriented questions, you can draw attention to possible solutions and the available resources. In this way, the discussion is made positive instead of just talking about what doesn't work. Such questions can also be used to identify previously unused resources and opportunities. This technique is particularly suitable for systemic questions in order to bring the conversation into a positive atmosphere. It's about what works, real opportunities, possibilities, strengths, talents and helpful people or situations.

10 examples of solution-oriented questions:

  • How do you know that you are on the right track?
  • What are the three next steps you need to take?
  • Who is particularly important for success?
  • When did it go or go well?
  • Which problems have already been solved?
  • What is necessary for a smooth process?
  • Which of your strengths can you use for this?
  • How can I avoid the problem?
  • How did you overcome similar hurdles in the past?
  • Who can you ask for help?

Hypothetical questions

These questions are an invitation to thought experiments. Although they rarely lead directly to the solution of an existing problem, they can open the door to new approaches and directions. Hypothetical questions can also be used to determine whether a particular idea can even lead to its goal or should be discarded immediately. A popular strategy for these systemic questions is to eliminate limiting factors in such thought experiments in order to unleash creative energies. The systemic questioning with this questioning technique helps to mentally play through certain scenarios and also to evaluate them. Ideas are found, analyzed and compared with one another. In this way, it can become clear to the person asked whether options are a good approach or should be discarded immediately.

10 examples of hypothetical questions:

  • Which goal would you most like to achieve?
  • What would you do if it didn't affect anyone?
  • What if time didn't matter?
  • What would happen if your boss got you promoted tomorrow?
  • How would you solve the problem with an unlimited budget?
  • What would you do if you weren't afraid of failure?
  • What would happen if you achieved your goal tomorrow?
  • What would you say if the colleague asks for your opinion?
  • What would you do if you were solely responsible?
  • How much salary would you pay yourself?

Miracle questions

These types of systemic questions are also hypothetical mind games - only more extreme. Miracle questions should encourage you to think beyond the known horizon, to fantasize and to think further instead of giving in to defeat. Such questions help to find a way or a solution, especially in stuck, seemingly hopeless situations. It is not uncommon for the associated positive emotions and mind games to lead to new motivation in the respondent. The systemic questioning with miracle questions shows that there can still be hope. Often an ideal situation is described or - as the name of the questioning technique already shows - a miraculous solution is given.

10 examples of miracle questions:

  • What if the problem was suddenly solved?
  • What would your situation be like in a perfect world?
  • Would you keep your job if you didn't need the money?
  • Assuming the next employer is perfect: what then?
  • What if you still make it by tomorrow?
  • If you win the lottery tomorrow, what will you do then?
  • You are offered THE dream job: What would change?
  • How would you know that your problem is solved?
  • What would you be willing to give up to solve the problem?
  • How would you feel if your dream suddenly came true?

Justification questions

With the help of these questions you can get your counterpart to reflect on his or her actions and at the same time to justify them. These systemic questions offer a better insight into the mindsets of the interlocutors and can help to understand their views. The justification questions can of course also help to question alleged facts or to reopen a previously one-dimensional view of the facts. It is important to take a critical approach. In the case of justification questions, the decisions, ways of thinking and behavior of the other person should be felt on the tooth.

10 examples of justification questions:

  • Why do you want to solve the problem like this?
  • When did you come to this point of view?
  • How sure are you that it will work?
  • How do you intend to convince outsiders?
  • Why are you so convinced of this?
  • Can you explain your approach to me in more detail?
  • On what experiences is your decision based?
  • What were the reasons for doing this?
  • Which three arguments speak in favor of your idea?
  • How do you refute the counter-argument?

Scaling questions

With this question-and-answer approach, you can achieve two goals at once: firstly, you can temporarily reduce the complexity of a situation and secondly, problems can be put into perspective. What seems overwhelming, for example, can be made significantly smaller by asking the right questions, and can be understood, categorized and solved. With these systemic questions, assessments that cannot be assessed objectively can also be made more measurable. In addition, this questioning technique helps to clarify the individually perceived extent of a situation. The assessment on a scale reflects the personal opinion and shows, for example, how difficult it is for the person asked - even if it is objectively perhaps an easy matter.

10 examples of scaling questions:

  • How do you rate the problem on a scale from 1 to 5?
  • How are you doing compared to last year?
  • The perfect day is a 10: how are you today?
  • How do you classify the problem compared to previous ones?
  • On a scale from 1 to 10: How satisfied are you?
  • You get more salary: how does that change your rating?
  • From 1 to 10: How productive do you feel today?
  • How do you rate your own performance compared to yesterday?
  • What factors could increase your score from 7 to 9?
  • What raised your satisfaction from a 5 to an 8?

Paradoxical questions

You can also classify problems with paradoxical questions. However, their effect goes beyond that and can sometimes produce the most creative solutions. It's about turning the question around, turning it into the opposite and taking it to the extreme. Admittedly, not all ideas that arise in this way can always be implemented, but they usually represent good approaches. With a little more time and energy to carry on the thoughts, exciting ideas can be developed that might otherwise not have occurred to anyone. However, it can only have an effect if the respondents are seriously involved in the questions. If this type is used for systemic questions, a corresponding explanation may be necessary in order not to confuse or unsettle the interlocutor. The openness creates greater understanding and the other person can fully engage in the exercise. This is important because when dealing with serious issues and questions, it can be difficult to mentally grapple with the negative extremes.

10 examples of paradoxical questions:

  • How could you make the project fail?
  • How could the problem be exacerbated?
  • What can you do to prevent the promotion?
  • What do you have to do to further harm your health?
  • How can you get unhappy?
  • What doesn’t work in any case?
  • What would make you ditch it all?
  • Which course of action is doomed to fail?
  • How could you turn the boss against you?
  • What would have to happen in the job to lose all pleasure?

Indiscreet questions to think about

Rolf Dobelli has written a deceitful book in which he brings an old British board game to life: the questionnaire. In the reading the author offers 777 questions - arranged according to areas of life - sometimes amusing, sometimes cynical, sometimes thought-provoking. Above all, however, they are suitable for discreet self-exploration. The best thing to do is to start right away ...

  • How much success do you need personally?
  • How do you define meaning?
  • How crippling is self-awareness for you?
  • Would you rather be more personable or more intelligent?
  • What would you ask Socrates?
  • Would you wish your children your life?
  • Do you like people who are similar to you?
  • What was the high point in your life? Or is it still coming?
  • Can you let yourself go
  • What was the most embarrassing moment in your life?
  • In which century would you have liked to have lived?
  • Straight forward: what kind of person are you?
  • What do you know for sure?
  • What thoughts would you rather not have?
  • Which experiences do you not trust?
  • When do you prefer knowledge to certainty?
  • What are the pros and cons of truth?
  • Which discoveries would you rather not have made?
  • What do you find easier: think or reflect?
  • What do you think of when you want to think of something beautiful?
  • Do you talk too much or too little?
  • Are there goals you set yourself that you don't like?
  • How often do you stand up for something that doesn't help you?
  • Would you want your hobby to be profitable?
  • How do you bridge the gap between insight and action?
  • Do you know what makes you happy?
  • Do you know what you want?
  • How many disappointments do you need to feel happiness?
  • What do you expect from love?
  • Is there hatred at first sight?
  • Are you afraid of insignificance?
  • What or who do you love more than yourself?
  • If you are loved, do you want to love too?
  • Do you finish reading books on principle?
  • What is the goal of mankind?
  • If you could, would you do away with the subjunctive?
  • How often is the lowest common denominator enough for you?
  • Which compliments make you feel insecure?
  • Who do you lie to more often: others or yourself?
  • What was the best excuse of your life?
  • Can you describe your very first feeling?
  • How do you know that reason is not a feeling?
  • Would the world be better if everyone succeeded?
  • What are you envied for?
  • What do you learn more from: from successes or failures?
  • If you are successful, is he right?
  • Would you give yourself a job? Which?
  • Would you want to be your boss?
  • Is it work when it is fun?
  • What is your reputation?
  • At what amount does money become uninteresting for you?
  • Who would you pay to be your friend?
  • Do you know who your boyfriend really is?
  • Do you know who your friends really are?
  • Is god your friend?
  • Who would you like to get to know?
  • Which laws of nature do you not believe in?
  • How old don't you want to be?
  • What answers would you like a question to?

Systemic questions: tips for correct application

Of course, you have to decide for yourself which questions are useful and effective in the respective situation, because as already said: "He who asks leads". It is important that you have tried all types of questions in advance and that you feel safe with them. The potential effect of systemic questioning is enormous, but the side effects can also be. It is crucial that you use these questioning techniques in a dosed and targeted manner. It is particularly useful if the person you are talking to has a strong culture of discussion and is ready to break away from familiar thought patterns. Then the method is ideal for developing creative solutions. Only please generate without pressure!

There should be both time to think and enough space to develop one's thoughts and ideas.Bans on thinking or hastily evaluating answers are taboo here (as in brainstorming). Therefore, there should be a reliable relationship of trust between the questioner and the respondent. Some of the systemic questions are quite intimate and get down to business. Mutual trust is essential so that a solution-oriented dialogue can develop from this.

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