Asking the Right Questions

June 2013

As mentioned in Justin’s previous blog, the CFA staff gathered about two weeks ago for two days of training, mostly on building technical counseling skills. It was an incredible learning experience for the staff and I, so I would like to share with you a few things that I learned that were extremely helpful for me!

Over the last few years, I have been surprised at the lack of openness, in general, to counseling in Kenya. I think that has a lot to do with the tangible results. People most often want fast visible change. And frankly, counseling does not provide the kind of immediate tangible results that providing food, teaching seminars, or helping to start a business does. However, I am more convinced now than ever that counseling is absolutely essential for the clients we serve. I would like to share why I think it’s the most important thing we do, second only to sharing the Gospel.

Many clients come to the program with massive, complicated, and difficult problems. Say you are the counselor and someone comes in and asks you what to do about their run-away child or stigmatizing neighbors. What would you tell them? Could anyone really just give them a simple answer and solve their problems? Perhaps there are a few outstanding cases, but for the most part I don’t think its possible. So with the staggering amount of issues that our counselors see every day, I think the best solution is providing good counseling.

I learned that a lot of counseling is about asking questions, not just advising people what to do. This is a huge area in which many of us fail daily when people come to us for advice. Yes, sometimes there is an obvious right answer and sometimes we must tell them if they cannot see it. But for the most part, good counseling, whether its professional or just casual, is about helping people come to their own conclusions. Here are four few quick take-aways of why asking the right questions is so important. Questions can:

  1. Make people think more and process things internally first.
  2. Put counselor and the counseled on equal level.
  3. Allow the person being counseled to come to their own conclusions and take ownership over the situation. Sometimes they already know the answer.
  4. Empowers people to think for themselves so in the future they can be able to make strong decisions on their own.

Biblically, we see that Jesus actually demonstrated this principle as well. It’s interesting that when people approached Jesus, he often responded with a question. In Mark 10 when the rich young ruler came to Jesus, the young man asks, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”. Jesus surprisingly responded with a question, “Why do you call me good?” I think the point of Jesus’ response was to get to the deeper question, and reveal the young mans true motive. Looking back at what counselors are taught, it makes perfect sense! Its all about asking the right questions.