Changing our questions this summer

 “Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”  ― Voltaire“

One idea that has had a profound effect on me has been the work by Marilee Adams about how we change our questions so that we get different results. She presents this very simply in” The Choice Map” . When we are confronted by problems we often ask questions such as:

  • What’s wrong (with me/others)?
  • How can I prove I’m right?
  • Why is that person so stupid and frustrating?
  • Haven’t we already been there, done that?
  • How can I be in control?
  • Why bother?

Adams refers to these as ‘Judger’ questions and what an appropriate term that is.

She argues that in order to get better results we need to look at another way of thinking and ask questions such as:

  • What am I responsible for?
  • What can I learn from this?
  • What’s useful or valuable?
  • What is the other person thinking, feeling, and wanting?
  • What’s the best first step?

Adams calls this the “learner” path.

We are now approaching the time of our summer holidays, our “silly season’. This time can be both wonderful and challenging – a recipe with ingredients of joy mixed with stress.  With our families—and old friends. Do you notice that no matter how much progress we’ve made in our lives, old patterns tend to mysteriously resurface during the holidays? This happens even with our best intentions to behave differently!

By looking at the way of thinking above, we may be able to change some of our experiences of this holiday time so they are better times and full of good spirit?  We prepare travel arrangements. We prepare food.  We prepare gifts.  Why not prepare to have a learner mindset holiday?

Here are some tips that can make a real difference and some questions to ask ourselves:

  • Am I being a Learner or the Judger now with this person or situation?
  • Where would I like to be, both for myself and for the other person(s)?
  • How can I get there—and make this good for all of us?
  • Am I listening with Learner ears or Judger ears?
  • What humour and good will can I bring to this interaction?
  • How can I make these holidays a time of genuine gratitude and connection?
  • What old patterns do I want to change that would be good for me and others too?
  • What might family members or friends say or do that would trigger my Judger mindset?
  • For each person who might trigger my Judger mindset: What do I appreciate most about him/her? What compassion can I bring to them and to myself?
  • What relationships do I want to deepen and strengthen? How can I summon the courage and willingness to do this? What rich rewards can this bring to us all?
  • What kind of support do I need to fulfil these kinds of intentions?

Since you know yourself and the people in your life better than anyone, what questions can you add here that could make the most difference for you personally? I suggest “brainstorming” some questions to ask yourself to prepare for a “Learner holiday?” Make a list as you can.


Ron Tustin

Revive and Thrive Coaching, Professional Coach.



Read more by Ron on GrownUps here.

Motivating baby boomers to see the world with fresh eyes.