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Changing Your Questions

20 January, 2016 - 16:32

Marilee Adams 1 proposes that when you change your questions in any given situation, this allows you to change your thinking. There are two types of questions: questions that involve judgments and questions that involve learning. We ask both types of questions, and we choose which ones to ask in any given situation. Asking questions in a different way provides us with another perspective.

Table 5.2 Judger vs. Learner Questions



What’s wrong?

What works?

Who’s to blame?

What am I responsible for?

How can I prove I’m right?

What are the facts?

How can I protect my turf?

What’s the big picture?

How can I be in control?

What are my choices?

How could I lose?

What’s useful about this?

How could I get hurt?

What can I learn?

Why is that person so clueless and frustrating?

What is the other person feeling, needing, and wanting?

Why bother?

What’s possible?

Note: Adapted from Marilee G. Adams, 2004, Change your questions, change your life: 7 powerful tools for life and work, San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler, p. 49.

Cultural strategic thinking may seem overwhelming at first, but as with any new learning, you need to break your plan into smaller steps that will help you to accomplish your goals. When you get into the habit of cultural strategic thinking, you will begin thinking on an unconscious level and not even recognize that you are using strategic thinking. You will notice it when others marvel or comment at your ability to effectively manage cultural interactions.

Earley and Peterson 2 wrote that learning about a new culture requires putting all the pieces of a pattern together when you do not know the totality of what that whole picture should look like. Cultural strategic thinking is essential because it is this higher strategic thinking that enables you to process the new information and reinterpret it in a new situation. Cultural strategic thinking helps you to discard what you think you know and to apply new information concerning what the situation could be. By training your mind to think at a higher level, you create new maps of cultural situations, which help you to function more effectively.