The Socratic way of questioning

How to use Socrates’ method to discover the truth and argue wisely (critical thinking & logic mastery).

With the sheer volume of information, we have these days sometimes I find it overwhelming, knowing what and who to believe and where to go to find an absolute answer.

I have always considered myself to be curious, I am fascinated by the why of things often much more than the how. I like to think that I have always questioned things and for those that know me, I do love a good debate!

Since training as a coach, I use this natural tendency to ask challenging questions while being aware of my own bias. And all those questions without listening well would be a waste of time.

For book club we wanted to explore some methodologies for critical thinking and as Socrates is considered to be the “father” of modern psychology I figured there would be something to learned from his methods.

I came across this little book which proved to be very informative.

The first couple of chapters deal with understanding the need for and the value of Socratic questioning and this section does feel a little heavy however it is important to understand the underlying principles of Socratic questioning.

As a plus, each chapter has a handy summary that helps you to recap and ultimately retain more of the method.

The later chapters deal much more with the practical elements including

  • The power of the pregnant pause
  • Identifying the hidden agenda
  • Questioning assumptions
  • Understanding viewpoints

Interestingly I felt that as a group we are all quite critical in our thinking and so were happy to find ways to hone some of the skills we have already gained.

More than the questions themselves I think it is important to be open to being asked questions and challenged on our thinking. We have perhaps become a little too defensive and not open to the concept that we might not have all the right answers.

I see this so often in leadership as the leader feels they need to know all the answers, when in fact the great leaders know they can learn from others.

However, if you were to ask me “what would I get out of this book?” then I think I would have to say that in a world where we have so much information at our finger tips, we could all do with thinking a little more critically and using the Socratic questioning method will really help you to achieve that.

Here are 5 all-purpose questions directly from the book to help you improve your thinking!

  • How can I see this with fresh eyes?
  • What might I be assuming?
  • Am I rushing to judgement?
  • What am I missing?
  • What matters most?

Thanks for reading and if you want to read the book it’s here

Mhairi Richardson
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Mhairi Richardson

Mhairi specialises in coaching teams to help them achieve more and improve their wellbeing. Her focus is on building trust within the team and a combination of coaching, mentoring and facilitation and she can tailor the program to the needs of your business. She enjoys working with newly formed teams, established team or teams who just feel they should be achieving more. Mhairi is also a coach with a strong SME background, a focus on the detail, a high level of emotional intelligence and a strong desire to develop talent and grow high performing teams.

The Socratic way of questioning

by Mhairi Richardson Time to read: 1 min