The Most Powerful Question

Ever wonder what’s the most powerful question you can ask someone? The “someone” can be yourself, a family member, a client, or a prospective client. What’s the question that cuts through all the noise and gets to the heart of the matter?

Before I tell you what I believe, let me share my perspective on why questions are the answer to strong relationships. To me, a trusting relationship is built on each person’s ability to see things from the other person’s perspective – to know what this person perceives and values.

Therefore, I believe the most powerful question you can ask someone is: “What do you want?”

In broad terms, our motivation is governed by a desire to gain pleasure and/or avoid pain (and to a lesser extent, seek anticipation and/or avoid fear). When you ask, “What do you want?” the other person has the opportunity to tell you exactly what is motivating them (or will motivate them) to take action.

You can add context by augmenting the question with some parameters. For example, you can ask “What do you want to feel,” “What do you want to have,” or “What do you want to see happen?”

For financial advisors and planners you can ask questions like:

  • What do you want to accomplish with your wealth?
  • What do you want your retirement to look like?
  • What do you want your legacy to be?
  • What do you want me to know about your experiences with money?
  • What do you want our relationship to look like?

Sometimes, the other person doesn’t know how to articulate exactly that they want. They may have a general sense but might not know how to express it with precision. In that case, don’t try to fill in the blanks but gently encourage them to continue by requesting “tell me more.”

Once you know what they want, then (and only then) you can help them achieve it.

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