Would you like to know a single question that could transform any argument, problem or issue?
This single question might not win the argument or fix the problem or resolve the issue but sometimes a single question is all it takes.
Recently my wife and I sat down with a coffee to share a few minutes together before we would be spending a few weeks apart. It started well and we had some very pleasant time together. Until the outside world intruded: Messages on her phone. Messages on my phone. Researching an answer to a question that arose in the conversation. And before we knew it, we were more focused on our phones than we were on each other.
I was frustrated that we weren’t connecting and let her know. And you can probably understand that she responded defensively, pointing out that I was on my phone too. And she was right. So I stood up and walked away.
I needed to breathe.
And once I did, I asked myself a simple question: “What do I want now?”
The answer was simple: I wanted to connect. I wanted us to be present together. As I was telling her this the “problem” disappeared, like it had never been there in the first place. In a few moments we went from being upset and defensive to being together, happy and sharing that precious gift of the present.
I’m sure there was an array of anchoring and precision language and submodalities that we could have used. Or I could have juggled or setup a well-formed outcome or explored a timeline. But in that moment I could change my focus by asking myself a very simple question. And that one question that I asked of myself made all the difference.
It can be useful to differentiate between problems, remedies and outcomes (Clean Language’s PRO). When I am asking myself, “What do I want now?” I am not focusing on the problem. I am not focusing on how I want the problem to be solved. Instead I am focused on my outcome, on what I want. Sometimes the problem needs to be addressed, and we might know how! And yet focusing upon what we want in that moment can be enough to transform our state and give us back our freedom and power to choose.
The next time you find yourself stuck, you might ask yourself, “What do I want now?”
And the next time you are in a difficult conversation or situation, or where you don’t know quite what to do, you might ask yourself that same question. You might even ask other people in the interaction what they want now… and be surprised how easily you can get things back on track by better understanding what we want.