Reframing Questions for Breakthrough Thinking

Ever been in a conversation/dialogue/discussion when someone asks a question and it feels like the air has just been sucked out of the room? You can feel the tension–even “cut it with a knife.” Everyone becomes quiet. No one makes eye contact. The elephant in the room stands tall. Someone finally changes the subject. It’s time to ask a breakthrough question! Breakthrough questions are the foundation of Culturally Proficient Learning Communities, communities of practice that invite diverse thinking, engage in difficult conversations, learn from one another, and confront prejudices and inequities on the personal and organizational levels.

Breakthrough Thinking means we are engaged in conversations that are transparent, inclusive, open to diverse perspectives, and move the team beyond barriers to success. Breakthrough thinking transforms beliefs, values, and assumptions. A key skill for Breakthrough Thinkers is how to ask Breakthrough Questions.

Breakthrough Questions are crafted and delivered with specific characteristics, as listed below. Breakthrough Questions:
• Embed and are delivered with a spirit of inquiry and curiosity
• Assume positive intentions and are framed in a positive manner
• Use plural forms, signaling the intention of choice and options
• Use tentative language, conveying the intention of multiple right answers
• Are open ended rather than “yes/no” questions
• Are delivered with an approachable, invitational voice

An example of a Breakthrough Question is:
Given my new learning today (positive intention) and knowing some (plural language) of my beliefs and practices (plural form) may be challenged with my new consciousness, how might (tentative language) I be more open to listening and reframing my thinking as we move forward in this work (positive intentions)?

Source: Culturally Proficient Learning Communities: Confronting Inequities Through Collaborative Curiosity, Corwin Press Best Seller

To begin or sustain your work in Cultural Proficiency, or to learn how to craft and deliver breakthrough questions, to reframe the conversation, to achieve collaborative team and organizational goals, please email me at ljungwirth@ConveningConversations.com.

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