The One Question to Never Ask

Coaching is all about questions.  Questions help people sort out their thinking.  But one question we try not to ask is “Why?”  And it is the question we want to ask, isn’t it?

  • Why did you make that choice?
  • Why can’t you let that go?
  • Why can’t you get here on time?

 “Why questions tend to encourage analytical thinking, excuses, defensiveness, or trips to the past. It is better to ask questions that start with What, When, How, Who or Where.

– Gary Collins in Christian Coaching, Helping Others Turn Potential Into Reality.

“Why” may be a good question in a counseling session, where you are focusing on the past.  But in coaching, we are focusing on the future.

Let’s change the “Why” question into something more powerful.

Instead of asking, “Why did you make that choice?”


  • What were some of the consequences of making that choice?
  • Who were the people that could have helped you make a better choice?
  • When is the best time of day for you to make tough decisions?
  • What information do you wish you had when you made that choice?
  • When did you realize that was a poor decision?

Instead of asking, “Why can’t you let that go?”


  • What are the advantages of not letting this go?
  • What would be the benefits of letting this go?
  • What could you accomplish if you were to let this go?
  • Picture yourself free from this.  What does it look like?

Instead of asking, “Why can’t you get here on time?”


  • What are the time consumers for you as you prepare to come here?
  • Who could keep you accountable to getting here on time?
  • How could you change your routine to improve your arrival time?

It is very important that these aren’t leading questions.  In other words, don’t ask questions just to get specific responses.  The goal of questions is to get the person to think more clearly.

When are you tempted to ask “Why” and what question could you ask instead?