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Expressing Yourself Using the Question Tree Technique

by Greg Baker  
4/21/2010 / Marriage

Expressing yourself is not always easy. There can be many things that go wrong when you try to express yourself. Misunderstandings are perhaps the most destructive communication mishaps in relationships. So how do you solve it? No method is perfect, especially when you are dealing with someone else's perceptions, feelings, and desires.

But using a Question Tree is a great way to overcome many of these problems.


A Question Tree is expression only through questions. Instead of telling someone how you feel directly, you ask controlled and well thought out questions that bring the other person into the conversation and forces them to look at both sides of the problem or issue. You can express your position, feelings, and perspective all through questions that you ask the other person.

Instead of, "I don't like what you're doing" you ask, "I'm a bit confused about something you're doing, can you help me?"

One puts a person on the defensive, while the other brings the person to you and sets them on your side.

When dealing with emotions, you can ask, "How would you handle it if you felt this way?"

Selecting the right types of questions are essential to the success of a good Question Tree.


I'll only give one. Let me paint a recent scenario that I helped to counsel. A young man (John) had a close female friend (Jane). She began to see their relationship as something more than just friendship. Indeed, she wanted more, but he didn't. He never saw her as anything other than a friend. And he just wanted to remain friends. Last night she made her feelings abundantly clear. Shocked, he made some excuse and left on some pretext without dealing with it. Now he very much fears telling her that all he wants is to remain friends, that he had no other interest in her. He fears that telling her these things would destroy the friendship.

Here is a possible way to deal with the situation using a Question Tree:

"Jane, about last night, I'm a bit confused about your intentions and what you really wanted. I was hoping you could help me understand?"

She might explain how her feelings for John have grown beyond friendship. She might say that she wants something more.

John then could ask, "If I don't feel the same way you do, how would that make you feel?" No matter what her answer here is, John then asks, "Why do you feel that way?" All this seeks to gain understanding of exactly her position, but it lets her know how he is thinking. She'll pick up on the nuances of the conversation. And the conversation won't sound like a Dear Jane letter.

John may then ask, "If we can't be more than friends, how important is it to you that we remain friends?" Probably she'll say she doesn't want to lose the friendship. But no matter the answer, John should ask, "Why is that so important to you?"

These questions remind Jane of some things that are very basic and important to her. John could agree with her desire to keep the friendship, he could nod as she described how keeping the friendship is more important that the other.

John could then say, "I agree with you completely. But do you want me to act any different around you now?" No matter what she says, John will ask, "Why?"

Her response allows everything to not only come out, but sets the expectations for the relationship. This is important.

This method isn't full proof, but it is one of the best one's I've ever used.

More at:

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