The self empowerment approach uses strength and provocation and therefore it may seem scarcely inclined to questioning, waiting, and discussing. Actually, it’s quite the opposite: self-empowerment promotes curiosity, openness, and exploration and therefore questions, especially the powerful ones, are at the very core of the approach. Similarly to humanistic psychology, self-empowerment takes into account the person as a whole, aiming to foster his/her overall potential. Questioning and empathic listening are privileged instruments to get in touch and gain greater knowledge of oneself and others.

Asking questions will not get you the right (or wrong) answers but it will help you establish an authentic contact with yourself and others while embracing an holistic view and not merely looking at specific situations, skills, or behaviors.
Asking questions means being present to oneself, being eager to discover something new, letting oneself be surprised, not settling for appearance – what it is said – and trying to get to a deeper level.
It is also non-judgmentally opening up to whatever feelings and emotions the other is eliciting in us, irrespectively of how distant we feel him/her and his/her world to be from us.

In the self-empowerment approach questioning, and therefore being able to listen and to be empathic, are important for several reasons:

  • When looking for a new development vision, whether one’s own or someone else’s, they prevent you from settling for the fist answer but rather push you to broaden your view until you find that key element capable to triggering a true and significant change for the better;

  • Facilitate a true openness towards the other as they help us enter relational exchanges or discussions without thinking we “know it all”; they allow us to look at situations with the eyes of the other and from his/her point of view;

  • When exploring new possibilities, they help us dare and make others dare, they allow us to focus on resources while breaking old and long-known patterns and generating something new.

Being able to ask incisive questions is a very important instrument for a boss. Bosses often acknowledge the importance of feedback as an instrument to foster their employees’ development but sometimes they end up pontificating and restating their point of view. On the contrary, they forget that it is possible to be very challenging by simply asking a good question followed by silence and active listening.

Choose someone you know from work and you tend to criticize. While trying to suspend your judgment on him/her, make a list of all the things you don’t know about this person: motivations, past history, difficulties, fears, uncertainties, ambitions…

Now identify at least three questions that would help you find out something important about this person and, when possible, ask him/her such questions.

Most times it is not easy, but opening up and asking questions help us being empathic and getting in touch even with people we don’t like. As Ian Maclaren rightfully wrote: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

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