NOTICING - Do you hide your bossiness behind a question?

Seems to me that I spend a lot of time lately working with leaders to develop their inquiry skills. in Humble Inqury, Ed Schein, paints a convincing picture of the "tell culture" that we live in. I certainly see it in my work ... and in my own life.

I like to be in charge.

I readily take control.

I think I am pretty good at directing others to do things - do things that I think are best.

I also know that I don't like having people tell me what to do.

I like to have a choice, so being asked is more appealing than being told.

Notice the inherent conflict in those 2 approaches!

Several years ago, my youngest son pointed out to me that I hide my bossiness/ commander/ director behind a question ... and he was right ... he caught me.

It was a late winter afternoon and Spenser was doing homework at the kitchen table. I noticed that the sun was quickly slipping away and it was getting dark in the kitchen. With the intention of being helpful, I walked over to the light switch and said "Would you like some light on the subject?"  As the words were coming out of my mouth, my hand was flipping the light switch on.

That was the moment that Spenser caught me. "You just did it again."   "Did what?" "You asked me a question, but you didn't really care what my answer was. You had already made up your mind that you were going to turn the light on. It didn't make any difference whether I wanted it or not, you had already decided what you were going to do.  You do it all the time. I know that you are trying to be helpful. You frame it as a question, but it's not a question that you really want answered."

He was so right!  From that day on, I have caught myself doing that very thing and now, I catch other people doing it too.  I share that story in many workshops and it's amazing how many people see themselves in that story.  Parents recognize that they are doing that to their kids. Spouses realize that their desire to be helpful by "doing something" for their partner has been the cause of much annoyance

I'm curious if anyone else notices that they may hide their desire to act behind a question - looking like we are actually going to give someone a choice. BOSSINESS is not always the best choice! It's a hard habit to break, but I'm working on it.


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