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Coaching Through “I Don’t Know”

We live in current times of “I don’t know” –

  • I don’t know what I want to do with my life
  • I don’t know what I want to do with my career
  • I don’t know how to start my own business
  • I don’t know how to deal with my relationship (or any other area)
  • I don’t know how to ____________ (fill in the blank)

What keeps coaches in business is helping individuals to answer this question; leaders also need to help their workers to best answer this question when giving work tasks or when looking at their results of the work.

But do individuals really ‘not know’? Do we think we know the answer when asking this question, essentially setting someone up to be unclear? Does this question frustrate others in your circle when this statement is made (ex: I don’t know,, what do you want to do? I don’t know, I don’t know what I want to eat? et cetera).

From my experience, we do know; we’re just afraid to say it due to a fear of some kind:

  • fear of disappointing someone
  • fear of looking poorly in another person’s eye
  • fear of getting yelled at
  • fear of rejection
  • fear of failing
  • fear of looking inadequate in some way

How questions are phrased can lead to the “I don’t know” response; when someone feels caught ‘off-guard’ or is unsure how to respond, they are more likely to answer with that statement. When emotions come into play, which they do, this answer is more likely to be said. In remembering that it all comes down to perspectives and how each party sees the situation, this will determine a positive or a vague response.

One question to never ask someone is ‘why;’ it is vague and will elicit a vague response. A better question to ask is ‘what led you to do/say/not do, etc. ….. We can make the connections to our actions, or inaction’s, but why can lead to becoming defensive and striking back, or to either being silent or agreeing to something, when you really don’t want to. The end-result is never good as, over time, defenses build and silence leads to withdrawal and other emotional issues.

Here are three questions to ‘coach’ someone through the ‘I don’t know’s”

  1. What do you need right now?:  our actions are driven by our needs – the need to be recognized, the need to feel important, the need to feel accomplished, to name a few; we are often not so good with naming these, however. If we were to probe what the person needs, it can uncover the true source of what they really need/want, which can then be discussed for meeting that need
  2. If there were a solution, what would it (they) be?: helping the person to come up with possible solutions will help their brain to go into this mode, lessening the fight-or-flight area in the brain to not activate, allowing more ideas to arise. The ‘how’s’ will start to get answered, leading to feeling more positive about the situation which then leads to taking action
  3. If this situation can be amicably resolved, what choice would you make that would lead to it?: if we knew we would have a positive outcome to any situation we face, our brain would become more idea-oriented and come up with a host of ways to deal with both our work and our life. It also leads to feeling more confident that we can deal with them, which we most likely have in the past. Another win is helping the person to create a new reality and attracting more positive thinking for any area of their life

An added benefit to coaching through this question is that it creates more positive feelings between the two parties, lessening any defensive or negative encounters. Now, one will feel they can approach others and will get a win-win result. Isn’t that what we all want?

If you struggle with coaching through this question, or other patterns, let’s talk! contact us today at http://www.cyscoaching.com

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