At some point in life we will face some difficult situations that we need to seek help and advice from others and vice versa. Mastering active inquiry is extremely important in many situations, especially when you have to figure out what is going on with your members or people around you. Understanding the situation and people carefully will help us assess the full picture of the story and come to the optimal solution. This skill is highly preferred in every organisation, as it helps figure out what the problems are and how to resolve them. Here we call the helper as a consultant and the person seeking help as a client. In this article, we are going to discuss three main steps of active inquiry that every consultant must follow.
1. Pure inquiry
Pure inquiry simply means listening. During this first step, the consultant’s task is to initiate inquiry so that the client starts telling his story. The pure inquiry needs to start with silence and the helper has to listen carefully throughout the whole process. The goal of this is not to structure how the client tells his story, but to get the full picture of the story in a natural way. In this phase, the consultants should avoid asking “Why” questions, as it triggers diagnostic thinking and affect the storytelling process. Again, in this first step, the consultant should never give his opinions no matter how tempted it is. For example, the client may stop the storytelling and start asking about what should be done or what the solutions are. In these cases, the consultant must redirect the client back to storytelling by asking him to go on, tell more about what is going on or what happens next. If the story goes to an end, it’s when we move onto the next step.
2. Exploratory inquiry
During this step, the consultant will gradually influence the client’s mental process and the focus of the story. There are three aspects that we can look into here. Firstly, we can explore the feelings and reactions of the client by asking how he feels about that event or what his initial reaction is. Another approach is to ask about hypotheses and causes like why he thinks it happened or why he reacted like that. Lastly, we can try to know more about the actions taken by asking what he has done about it or what he is going to do. These questions take the client away from his thought process, in other words changing the direction of the client’s mental process. That’s why it needs to be carried out after the storytelling step ends so as not to disturb the flow of the story.
3. Confrontive inquiry
This is the final step after all the vital information has been collected from the client. It is when the consultant starts sharing his own ideas and reactions to the problem. While the previous steps focus mainly on the client’s own conceptual and emotional ideas, this final one introduces new ideas, concepts and options that the client is forced to deal with. Here the consultant can ask the client if he had thought about doing this alternative option suggested or whether he had thought about the story under another aspect. The greatest danger at this phase is that information about the reality of the client’s story may be lost, as he is now focusing on dealing with the new concepts introduced by the consultant. Although the confrontive inquiry gives direction and new ideas to be carried out, the issue remains is how and when to do it.