There’s a great blog item this month from Psych Central called ‘What’s the Most Important Question You Can Ask?’. It’s about how to discover the ‘virtual question’, which is the one which is out of conscious awareness but which if we articulate can shift the situation. So it’s a similar process to reframing.
The way in is to ask yourself ‘What’s the question I’m not asking myself about this situation?’ so it’s likely to be something you’re avoiding facing.
For example, today I’ve got to take our beloved cat to be put to sleep. I feel absolutely dreadful – although he’s very ill and it’s obviously important to make sure he doesn’t suffer.
So I reckon my virtual question, the one I’m avoiding, is ‘How will I cope at the vet if I collapse in floods of tears?’ and ‘What will happen if my partner is even more distraught than I am?’ .
Bringing these into my awareness is helpful. I can now ask myself ‘What support might I need at the vet?’ and ‘How would I like to say goodbye to our cat?’. Both of these shift my attention to a more positive and productive place.
How might the virtual question be used in an Action Learning Set?
First introduce Set members to the concept. For help framing a virtual question the blog has some guidance. Avoid questions which are closed, or begin with ‘Why” or ‘What if’ and look for questions which have a positive feel and which are about the present or future.
In an AL Set, the Set members could of course try out questions to ask the P. But I think it will be much more powerful to ask the problem holder first to consider what virtual question they are asking themselves now – and then what virtual question they’d like to ask. As always, tone of voice should be gently inquiring. Some suggestions:
‘What question might you be asking yourself at the moment, about this?’
‘Are there questions you’re asking yourself about this situation which you’d like to share with the Set?’
‘What’s the question you’re asking yourself that might be difficult to face?’
Then ‘What question would you like to ask yourself instead?’.