Facilitative Questions: questions that facilitate personal change, decision making, and search


There’s a universal assumption that well-crafted questions will result in ‘good’ responses. But as leaders, coaches, sellers, and search-developers know, that’s not necessarily true.

Sometimes questions end up gathering incomplete or flawed data. Or the questions unwittingly cause resistance because they’re not interpreted by the Responder as we intend. Or they are worded in a way that’s biased by the Asker’s unconscious beliefs and miss better answers that would lead to different, possibly better outcomes.


Have you ever wondered why the questions we use often don’t achieve what we want them to achieve? Here’s why:

  • Conventional questions seek to extract information. But due to the unique word choices and specific goals of the Asker, they can miss the real answer that’s sometimes lodged within a Responder’s unconscious, or the LLM’s database, and outside the scope of the question posed.
  • Conventional, or information-based, questions are biased: by the Asker seeking or assuming a specific type of response; by the Responder whose responses are dictated by the biases and assumptions within in the question.

Conventional questions – even those we ask ourselves! – are great for simple queries, but may not uncover good answers. After decades of brain research, systems thinking, and figuring out the gap between what’s said and what’s heard (Read my book WHAT?) I’ve discovered a way to formulate questions that finds the precise neural circuitry where accurate answers are stored.


What if it were possible to formulate a question that would:

  • extract accurate data,
  • influence change,
  • promote efficient implementations, buy-in, and sales cycles,
  • avoid resistance and bias, maintain personal integrity,
  • act as a filter and conductor for good decision making,
  • facilitate permanent learning and habit change,
  • help Responders (buyers, clients, patients) and search Users discover the unconscious criteria that evoke accurate answers?

Certainly it’s quite possible to pose good questions. But sometimes conventional questions lead to inadequate, biased, or reactive responses.

I suggest it’s possible to use questions in a way enables Responders to discover their own answers based on their own unique beliefs and mental models, reducing inaccuracies and reactions, and making real change and decision making possible.


My life’s work involves studying the brain for ways to impact unconscious choices, with a focus on unbiased ways into the brain to help people uncover their own answers and generate new choice.

In other words, in addition to helping us discover ways to change personal habits or make good decisions, coaches could lead clients to where their best answers are stored; sellers could facilitate buyers through to decision making without bias; search could prompt the right questions to summon the best answer.

In 1988 I read Roger Schank’s The Creative Attitude that discusses how our brains store data in memory that can only be discovered by using exact words that get sent to the exact brain circuitry where they’re stored. Interesting, I thought. But how is it possible to get to specific brain circuits?

I already knew that we unwittingly listen through biased ears due to the way brains process and dispatch incoming sound vibrations. Was it possible to use questions to unlock the unconscious drivers, the beliefs, the values, the emotions at the core of all decisions? Could questions be formulated in a way that gets to the exact part of someone’s brain where their answers were stored amidst their 100 trillion neural connections?

Using my knowledge of the mind->brain connection I began experimenting with new forms of questions that would avoid bias altogether. It took me 10 years to break down the elements necessary. I eventually developed a new form of question (Facilitative Questions) that eschews information-gathering, and instead leads Asker’s to the exact brain circuits – congruent with their values and beliefs – to facilitate their accurate unconscious choices, unbiased by wording or intent, for personal decisions and change.


Conventional questions seek information as per the needs of the Asker. They cause retrieval, translation, and relevance issues in the Responder:

  1. We each translate incoming words (called puffs of air by neuroscientists) according to our mental models, beliefs, history, and existing neural circuits, causing misinterpretations and misunderstandings that may be quite different from the intent of the Asker, producing unintended reactions and responses.
  2. Because of the way our brains uniquely hear and interpret incoming words, incoming information may be misinterpreted, potentially affecting people’s beliefs negatively, regardless of the intent of the Asker.
  3. Real answers are unique and held in Long Term neural circuitry within a Responder’s brain, sometimes stored in ways that aren’t conscious or easily accessed.
  4. We can only hear, see, feel, think, notice, etc. what exists in our neural circuits, causing each of us to live in worlds biased and restricted by our histories. It’s the same with current AI, which restricts responses to the way it interprets questions – not necessarily as intended by the asker – and captures and shares content accordingly.

With a data elicitation focus, conventional questions often cause failure:

  • Sellers gather information to ‘recognize’ a buyer with a ‘need’ they can pitch to – often leading to false assumptions and interpretations by the seller – when they can use the same time to actually find and lead prospective buyers through their decision making steps based on their own criteria and avoid rejection;
  • Coaches, consultants, facilitators and leaders pose questions biased by their assumptions and desire to influence. To that end, they risk causing resistance and certainly miss the opportunity to direct the Other’s brains to where their own answers are stored, eschewing resistance and enabling permanent change along the way.
  • Change Management professionals generate their goals, processes and implementations when gathering incomplete data from only a subset of folks involved in the initiating problem, causing resistance, delays, and failed outcomes when asked to apply the new activities.
  • Search queries are reduced to how LLMs interpret them, often in a manner biased by the search engine or AI, and often missing the real intent of the User. It’s possible to lead users to their specific circuitry to guide search to the most appropriate response.
  • Decision analysts and tech developers use their own biased curiosity to gather, weight, and analyze needed data, potentially extracting incomplete or inaccurate information when it’s possible to evoke accurate answers by formulating differently worded questions.

Eventually I invented a wholly new form of question that gets to the exact neural circuits where accurate, values-based answers are stored.


Facilitative Questions (FQs) are brain-directional and go to specific parts of the brain that will capture the appropriate, most relevant, unconscious content from a Responder’s memory or LLM’s database.

Facilitative Questions differ from conventional questions in their intent and scope. They are brain-directional and don’t seek information, but formulated in a way that mirrors how brains process, store and retrieve personal, unconscious, belief-based and historic data   from a Responder’s memory – great for making complex personal decisions, buy-in, and for making habit and behavioral changes; great for helping search capture the most appropriate content that matches the real, often unconscious needs of a User.

Using specific wording and sequencing, FQs shift the onus of responsibility from the Asker wanting answers to enabling Responders and AI to find and generate answers based on their history, norms, beliefs, and mental models. In other words, influencers – (sellers, coaches, therapists, friends, clients – even search engines!) become facilitators who enable Others to discover their own Excellence, with no guesswork or resistance.

But they are complex, outside conventional thinking, and can’t be formulated without additional learning. [If you’re interested in learning how to formulate them, get the Learning Accelerator or my MP3 series where I use, role play, and explain them for sales, coaching, and fundraising.] Without using precise wording or sequencing, without enabling Responders to listen from a Meta position, FQs become highly manipulative, fail to retrieve important ideas or information, and miss an opportunity to enable Others to change.

Facilitative Questions:

  • use specific words in a specific order to reach the specific place in the brain that stores the best answers;
  • put the Responder into Observer/coach/witness to reduce any natural biases and expand brain search;
  • open new choices within the unconscious of the Responder to make it possible to fix discover their own excellence;
  • construct new awareness, new choices, new behaviors based on unconscious belief/values-based criteria;
  • are non-manipulative and non-biased;
  • offer change agents a new skill to engage the right people, address the right problem, and manage change without resistance;
  • eschew information gathering;
  • eliminate resistance by eliciting commitment and buy-in at the very beginning of any project or initiative; 
  • enable Responders to simultaneously uncover the unconscious core of the problem and create the necessary change on their own.

Here’s a very simple example of the differences between conventional questions and Facilitative Questions:

Information-based question (conventional question based on the goals, word choices, word usage of the Asker): Why do you wear your hair like that? This question is an information gathering question based on the needs of the Asker and capture oft-used, habitual, automatic responses. Also, all ‘why’ questions cause a Responder to defend current choices and underlying beliefs. If a question invades the Responder’s beliefs, the response will be biased and resistive. There’s a good chance a conventional question would gather incomplete or inaccurate data.

Facilitative Question (sequential navigational question that directs Responders to the exact brain circuitry where their unconscious information is stored): How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle? This question begins by putting the Responder into a Meta position to have an unbiased, broader expanse of their neural circuits to peruse for answers, and uses words in the order that brains can dispatch them to the proper circuits. With no intent to capture information, with no bias or manipulation, the Asker becomes the facilitator/change agent/servant leader.These cause no resistance. Specifically:

  • users of search and AI can find their best answers with less guesswork and minimal bias;
  • buyers can recognize issues that would help them make decisions, assemble the right people, and instigate buy-in to ready them to buy;
  • coaching clients can be led to they’d need to address for permanent change and eschew resistance;
  • doctors can elicit natural, permanent behavioral change in patients rather than push to try to cause change, etc.

By helping Others discover their own criteria for change and decision making, by enabling search to efficiently find accurate responses, by finding accurate answers for researchers and influencers, Facilitative Questions provide an expanded scope to cull accurate answers and increase the probability of quality responses.


The big idea here is the change in the intent of the questions: FQs are brain directional. They trust that accurate answers are stored in unique places in brains that may not respond to conventional questions that are biased by the needs and wording of an Asker. After all, there really is no way for an outsider to ever know the full extent – the connections, history, values, complications, etc. – of how someone’s internal system is set up. The differences are important:

  • from seeking and pushing content to achieve the influencer’s goals to facilitating the person’s own discovery of beliefs, values, identity issues and systemic drivers, and eliciting (not causing) change;
  • from guessing at answers based on an algorithm or an Asker’s needs and beliefs to enabling the discovery based on a Responder’s unique criteria;
  • from bias and resistance to participation and creativity;
  • from directing change and creating resistance to discovery, buy-in and participation.

To use Facilitative Questions requires a different sort of thinking and a different level of control. Most of all it requires that influencers change their goal to truly serve the other, to help Others initiate and manage change from within – not with any content or directive from the Asker, but true buy-in.

What would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to add a new questioning technique to your already superb questioning skills? How would you know that adding a new skill set would be worth the time/effort/cost to make you – and your clients – even more successful?


Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. www.sharon-drew.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

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