Using Questions to Unstick Yourself

While some students worry that asking a question is a sign of weakness, in reality questions are powerful tools that can produce new and original thinking. Questions are the foundation to good thinking. The more questions students can learn to ask, the better!

Questions acknowledge and honor the fact that we don’t know everything. (We aren’t supposed to know everything!) By nature, a question points out something that is unknown and then provides someone the opportunity to go searching for an answer to that unknown.

Questions help us see things from a new perspective; they let someone consider a problem or that “unknown” from a new angle. This is what can lead to that new and original thinking.

I asked some of my students to tell me how they know when they are stuck. I asked them, in particular, to tell me the physical reactions they have. I volunteered the fact that I feel a tightness in my chest when I’m stuck, and a lot of the times I can feel myself wanting to cry. Some students volunteered the idea that they feel pressure in their forehead; others said they could identify with my answer of feeling a tightness in the chest. Many of us agreed that the experience of being stuck leads us to feel sleepy. That couch or bed can look so good for a nap when we just want to run away from what we are finding hard, so our challenge becomes differentiating between when we are actually tired and in need of a nap between when we are just trying to escape our challenge.

Recognizing—being aware—of when you are feeling stuck is the first step to getting unstuck. Asking a powerful, open-ended question can be the next step. Give your mind a chance to start moving again.

Good questions can lead to good answers.

2 thoughts on “Using Questions to Unstick Yourself

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  1. Good questions can lead to good answers, but the delicious moment is when a good question leads to a better series of questions that you see like the image of your self curving off into infinity between a set of mirrors.

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  2. Quite often a question from a student is actually a gambit: the student HAS an idea but wants validation before actually risking it. The obnoxious “teacher” reply of “What do YOU think?” sometimes elicits really interesting ideas from the asker, ideas that open up good discussions and other hypotheses.

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