Here’s a communication rule to consider: What you put out is what you receive. If you are angry. You’ll get anger back. If you are happy you will create happiness around you. If you feel guilt, you will create guilt. You always get back a response that matches the communication you put out. Commit this to memory. Remind yourself of this principle. It is a game-changer. And one more thing. The communication you put out is linked to your internal dialogue, and how questions that make you think differently will change your life.
Let’s dive in.
How questions that make you think differently will change your life
You always get back a response that matches the communication you put out. Let explain. When you communicate with any other human being the questions you ask, what you say and your tone will always be met with a response that aligns. Here’s a personal example to illustrate because I learned this concept in a difficult way…
I was training in a high-level coaching program from one of the world’s masters and that’s when this idea — that you always get back a response that echoes the communication you put out — was drilled into me. I was being trained on how to interact in coaching calls and how I communicate as coach will match the response I get. Asking the right question is everything. Speaking with the right tone is everything.
So, after an exhausting day of training and learning that “you always get back the response that matches the communication you put out”, I went back to my hotel room and as I did every night I called my husband and 3 year old son on Skype. The call upset me right away. My son was mad at me for a leaving for a few days. He didn’t want to talk to mommy. For a mom, this was a terrible experience and I immediately projected my anger onto my husband who was doing everything he could do be both a mom and dad for a few days while I was away.
I’m embarrassed to say what I said to my incredible husband. He really is the best dad you could ever have. But I did it. I said this about our son: “He’s not a piece of furniture, he’s a kid!”
That’s when I really learned the concept that had been drilled into me that day. I said something nasty to my husband out of anger. I dug deep. I pushed a button. And of course, a fight ensued. I learned my lesson, oh boy. I got a nasty response. Nasty = nasty!
This is also true…if you’re nice, you get back nice. If you communicate love to someone, you get back love. If you say something nasty, you get back nasty. You get what you give when you communicate. You create the quality of all the relationships in your life. What this means is that you are in control of the quality of all your relationships. At any point, you can change them in positive ways simply by being what you want to get back. Which is where asking of yourself questions that make you think differently will make a difference.
Questions you ask yourself in romantic relationships
Consider what commonly happens in romantic relationships. At the beginning the question you ask yourself is: “How can I make this person happy?” or “What can I do to make this person love me?” . Naturally, all your actions at the beginning are centered around making the other person happy. Over time what often happens is the questions change. The quality of the relationship changes too. Many people start to ask themselves “How can I get what I want?” or “How can I change this person?” (see also: 100 questions for couples to ask each other)
At the root of all your communication are the questions you ask yourself internally. The best way to improve the quality of your relationships or to influence others and get the outcomes you want is to be aware of your internal dialogue. Understand how questions the make you think differently will change your life.
The question I asked myself before I said the terrible line “He’s not a piece of furniture he’s a kid.” was “How come he [my husband] didn’t listen to me?”. Before I left I had put together a schedule and it involved playdates out with my son. I was mad that my husband didn’t listen to me. The entire fight was not really about the care he was providing to our son. We argued about the latter but it was really about me not getting my way.
But what if I had noticed my internal dialogue and asked a different question. A question like: “How can I help my husband?” or “How can I improve this situation for them at home and me here?”. Asking this question would have had me take a different approach.
It’s not just in relationships with other people that the questions you ask yourself matter, it’s also important around your relationship with YOU! When you fail do you say this to yourself: “How could you have let this happen?!” or do you take an inquisitive and less self-blaming stance and say “How did this happen? If I understand what the breakdown was I can learn for next time”.
When someone does something mean to you do you say: “How could he/she!?” or do you ask “I wonder what made them act like that? I wonder what’s going on in their life?”
When you feel lost or stuck in your direction in life do you ask: “Why doesn’t anything work out for me? Or do you ask “What’s trying to emerge in my life? What can I learn from this? What’s next for me?”
How to change the questions you ask yourself
The first step in changing your internal dialogue is to NOTICE it. Tune into what your saying. Don’t let yourself just run on autopilot. It might help if you write down what’s in your head. Sometimes the simple act of getting on paper will allow you to see what’s playing in your head.
As a general rule if you find yourself asking a lot of WHY questions, such as “Why did this happen?” “Why is this person being so unreasonable” “Why do I never get what I want”, you are being a victim of your circumstances. You are stuck in your past. This will never help you move forward and get what you want. The minute you notice you’re using WHY questions it’s time to interject and ask a new question.
It’s important to remember that what you think/believe will cause you take take action and it will produce either negative or positive results. And the best way to get what you want and to have more positive in your life is stepping in and being in control of your thoughts.
When you notice you have negative dialogue streaming in your head and you’re having trouble shutting it off or believing something else, the first thing to do is go do something that feels good physically and puts you in a better mood.
Go for a walk or for a run. Put some music on and dance. Take a hot bath. Get a massage. Put yourself in a relaxed state of feeling good. Changing your physical state is the quickest way to get yourself thinking more rationally and more positively.
Then, when you are in a better mood, ask yourself: What do I want to achieve? What more empowering question could I ask right now?
When you do this you’ll start to reframe your entire situation. You’ll start to give yourself some breathing room. You’ll start to see new actions you could take immediately.
The state you want to be in is one of inquiry. Become curious. Imagine you’re a fly on the wall watching you and other people. And the fly is curious. The fly is considering what could I do to make this better, improve the situation achieve the positive outcomes I want.
Questions to ask in the worst of times
When someone is being nasty towards you or when you’re mad at someone here are some empowering questions you might want to ask yourself…
- What’s going on in this person’s life that’s making them act this way?
- How can I help this person?
- How can I make this person feel better?
- What am I contributing to this situation?
- How can I change their behavior by changing mine?
- What’s going in my life that’s making me act this way?
- How do I want this relationship to go?
- What can I do to have this relationship be what I want?
- What does this person need?
- What do I need?
- What quality is missing in this relationship and what can I do to cause it?
Questions to ask when you are stuck, feeling hopeless around life and your direction
- What can I learn from this experience?
- What little thing can I do today to make myself feel better?
- What’s trying to unfold in my life?
- What am I not being grateful for?
- What do I love and feel passionate about?
- What can I do that’s fun?
- What can I do to get inspired?
- Who can I confide in that would make me feel better?
- What’s missing right now for me that’s having me feel this way?
- What’s a new action I haven’t taken that I could take?
Questions to ask when something bad happens to you, like a major failure
- What was missing that led to the failure?
- What could I put in next time that would increase my chances of winning?
- What is there for me to learn from this?
- How can I benefit from this failure?
- What did I do well/what did work about this situation?
- How can this failure make me a better person?
- What can I teach others about this situation?
- How can the world or other people benefit from my failure?
Refer to this list of questions when you need to. Or create your own. Don’t let yourself succumb to negative thoughts. The more you train your brain to ask empowering questions, the more it will become routine for you. It’s like building a muscle. It takes effort. It’s not easy at first but after a while it becomes second nature.
Getting what you want in life starts with you. You are the controller of your thoughts and what you think and believe is directly linked to your actions and behavior. Think better and you’ll act better. Act in more favorable ways and you’ll get more of the results you want and less of what you don’t want. So what is next? Create a list of questions that make you think differently that you can refer to until it becomes second nature.