Not Knowing The Way Forward Leads To Inaction

by Dr. Rick Kirschner on October 1, 2012

When people don’t move forward, it could be because they don’t know how. They may know what, who, where and when, even why, but without knowing how to proceed, the only action is inaction. So they stop, and wait.  But with the right question, and find the deeper structure that leads to action!

Verbs are action words.  And all verbs are vague. They have to be. It just isn’t possible to include all the information about how something happened each time a person describes what happened. If someone says, “You tricked me!” you can ask “How did I trick you?” If someone tells you “You’re not listening to me!” you can ask, “How am I not listening to you?” or even “How do you know I’m not listening to you?”

By gathering the deeper structure of the statement, you find out that certain of your behaviors influenced the person to feel tricked or to believe they weren’t being heard. Thanks to the additional information you got by asking questions, you can know exactly what not to do or what you need to do in order to avoid the outcome in the future.

Here’s a more complex example. If someone says, “I’ve already made up my mind,” you can first ask “You’ve made up your mind about what, specifically?” followed by a “How, specifically, did you make up your mind?” She replies, “I examined the facts, and consulted with my advisors, and came to the conclusion that it isn’t feasible.” You backtrack, and then ask, “What facts did you examine?” or, “Which advisors did you consult with?” and then, “How did you come to that conclusion based on those facts?” or, “How did you decide to use those facts in drawing your conclusion?”

Notice that you are not contradicting the person, simply gathering deep structure information. The person replies “It seemed obvious to me that it wouldn’t work.” You ask “Obvious in what way?” or “It wouldn’t work in what way?” Each answer gives you more information. And interestingly, it gives the person more information about the inner workings of their own thought process.

At some point, you can then introduce new information, using a similar form or process as her own. “I’m wondering, what were the facts that you didn’t consider? For example, what did you think about….” and provide a new fact in the form of a question.

Now, I’d love to know this.  What are your experiences with inaction?  Feel free to take action and comment below!

Be well,


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