Loaded questions are questions with an overt or covert agenda, generally implying a negative or doubtful judgment about a person or about a course of action.
While often meant to be helpful, loaded questions can communicate a lack of confidence in or doubt about a person’s ability, perspective, or plans.
Even seemingly innocent questions can fall into this category.
- “Are you sure you want to do this?” suggests the course of action has serious drawbacks. It also implies “I wouldn’t do this if I were you.”
- “Do you really think this is going to work” really means, “I don’t think this will work.”
- “Can you think about this situation another way?” translates to “The way you’re thinking about this situation is flawed and limited.”
Avoiding loaded questions is important in coaching and other areas of life because the brain is very sensitive to perceived threats to status.
Research by emotional intelligence expert Richard Boyzatis found that people who were being evaluated by others had the stress hormone cortisol remain in their system for 50% longer. When the brain has stress chemicals running through it, it is less likely to be creative and able to think of long-term solutions.
In my next column, I’ll suggest some alternative questioning methods that will aid the brain to be creative and formulate “out of the box” long-term solutions.
May we pursue our paths, using questions that reinforce other people’s ability to solve their own challenges,