Volume 3, Article 3
The urban myth of the ‘Why…’ question. Can coaches ask ‘Why?’
Citation: Day, I. (2022). The urban myth of the ‘Why…’ question. Can coaches ask ‘Why?’ International Journal of Coaching Psychology, 3, 3, 1-5. https://ijcp.nationalwellbeingservice.com/volumes/volume-3-2022/volume-3-article-3/
There is an un-written rule amongst practitioners that coaches must not ask the ‘why’ question. Practicing coaches can be very passionate in their heart-felt belief that coaches must not ask ‘why…?’ as it creates defensiveness within the client. But this is like the legend of King Arthur, the origins of this myth are unclear and there is little actual evidence. But, as with King Arthur, the myth of the ‘why’ question continues in popular coaching folklore, passed down from one coach to the next, from generation to generation. However, it is not possible to cite a research paper, for example, which states “8 out of 10 coaches believe that asking ‘why’ is bad” or that “evidence states that 70% of coachees felt defensive when asked a ‘why’ question. This article explores the origins of this myth and the alternative realities of asking ‘why?’, with the intention of ending this myth, and freeing coaches to ask an incredibly valuable question which can unlock meaning, awareness of personal values and motivation. The intention of this article is not to criticise, only to enable coaching colleagues to question and explore the origins of established beliefs.
Implications for Practitioners: Practitioners do not need to avoid the ‘why…?’ question, as there is no validity in this myth. Instead, practitioner coaches can ask ‘why…?’ questions that will encourage their
clients to explore assumptions, develop awareness of values and personal motivators. Exploring a client’s ‘why’ can create a hugely meaningful understanding of life purpose. With practice, the ‘why…?’
question should be an integral part of a practitioner’s tool kit.
Keywords: Coaching questions, coaching psychology, The why question, Coach development, Coaching skills, Coaching Myths
Processing dates: Submitted 21 January 2022; Re-submitted 20 May 2022; Accepted 20 June 2022; Published 15 September 2022
Ian Day is course director for the part-time postgraduate and undergraduate coaching courses at the University of Warwick aimed at adult learners. Ian has been an executive coach for 20 years and is co-author of Challenging Coaching: Going Beyond Traditional Coaching to Face the FACTS (2012), and contributed a chapter Balancing Challenge and Support in Coaching in the Coaches’ Handbook ed by Jonathan Passmore 2021.