$schemamarkup = get_post_meta(get_the_ID(), 'Schema', true); if(!empty($Schema)) { echo $ Schema ; } Intimidating Questions: How Bad Questions Shut People Down

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intimidating questions shut people down

Intimidating Questions: How Bad Questions Shut People Down

by | Oct 2, 2012 | By Karin Hurt, Communication |

Avoid These Intimidating Questions That Can Silence Innovation and Problem Solving

Questions are powerful. They can motivate, and inspire deeper thinking. Great questions empower. On the other hand, intimidating questions frustrate employees and shut down creative thinking and problem-solving.

The most dangerous and intimidating questions are those where the leader already “knows” the answer and is looking to see if the person will “get it right.”

Closed-ended questions can have a similar impact if the leader only wants to hear “yes” or “no.”

Intimidating Questions That Disengage Employees:

These intimidating, aggressive inquiries seem to rear their ugly heads most frequently under times of stress and urgency precisely when more calm and creative thinking would be most beneficial.

  • What do I have to do to get you to…?
  • Why did you do that?
  • Did I ask you to do that?
  • Is that really working?
  • What is your experience in this area?
  • Who gave you the authority to make that decision?Questions to Help Your Team Solve Problems On Their Own
  • Is that your final decision?
  • Are you sure about that?
  • What makes you think that will work?

In Dan Rockwell’s post, Too Many Questions, he shares that when teams are always asking “what to do,” they probably have a micro-managing leader. Someone who is delegating tasks instead of”delegating tasks versus results, vision,  and resources.”

If employees are intimidated or fearful, they may ask questions in order to keep from “getting it wrong.”Which of course, limits creativity and innovations, and stifles growth. When someone brings you too many questions, try flipping the script and be the question answerer. Here’s a great methodology that can help: The 9 What’s Coaching Method.

2021 Update:

Courageous Cultures book by Karin Hurt and David DyeSee our New Research on Psychological Safety: Why People Shut Down and Don’t Share Ideas

Note, if you’ve found this article, you’ve stumbled across one of my very first blog posts from 2012 😉 Glad you’re here. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time research and writing about psychological safety, innovation, and courage at work.

Learn more about our research here.

Or download the first chapter of our new book, Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates here.

Your turn:

What questions do you find most intimidating? What questions work best to inspire innovation and growth?

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

10 Comments

  1. Bill Gessert

    Great post and so very true. I struggled with this during my first tenure as a team leader, asking ALL the wrong questions. As a result, not only did I shut down my team, I completely lost their trust and willingness to perform. It was was a tough and costly lesson, but I did learn from it.

    Moving forward as a leader, I began using questions that opened people up and showed that I valued their thoughts and input. Needless to say that approach was far more effective as my team really became invested in everything we were doing and owned the results.

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      Bill, thanks so much for sharing your story. I really appreciate you joining the conversation. I like what you add about it helping the team to “own the results.” Exactly.

      Reply
  2. Marcus

    Great post. This makes me think of how I ask questions to my 7 year old. The questions communicate a message- not just a query.

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      Marcus, thanks so much for joining the conversation. Absolutely. What and how we ask is also a statement. Namaste.

      Reply
  3. Steve Borek

    Questions that shut people down are leading ones and closed ended ones. Your disengaged questions can easily be turned around so they’re engaging. For example, “What do I have to do to get you to” can be modified to say “Who would you like to show up as so you feel great about this project?”

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      awesome… thanks for adding that. “who would you like to show up as…” I am going to use that one for sure.

      Reply
  4. Anonymous

    I like this post and I agree many questions can be disengaging. In particular – leading questions like: “Don’t you agree that…” or “Isn’t it obvious that…” followed by an opinion or an assumed obvious response mostly make me want to exit a conversation.

    Reply
  5. letsgrowleaders

    Thanks for joining the conversation. You provide some great examples here.

    Reply
  6. Lex

    I find it frustrating that ego gets in the way of communicating in intense situations of hurt but I suppose your website is correct- effective communication needs creative questions that empower the other person. What I learned: empowering those that hurt you is very difficult. Compassion can never be forced: so say your words once and move on. Accountability can not be forced either. Creative questions like the one you suggest can save a lot of time from consequences of making someone feel “intimidated”.

    Reply
    • Karin Hurt

      Lex, Thanks so much for expanding the conversation and taking the time to comment. Agreed, ego does often get in the way of effective communication during intense situations.

      Reply

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