5 Empowering Questions That Will Help You Improve Your Relationship, Without Your Partner Doing a ThingDec 27, 2022
In our work with couples, we are all about helping you find ways to step into your personal power to be a catalyst for improving your relationship. Here are 5 empowering questions we teach that will help you to shift into greater love and compassion and to bring consciousness to the ways that you can be the one to facilitate positive changes in your relationship.
The Power of Questions
If you’re having problems in your relationship with your partner, chances are there’s a part of you that wishes they would do something different to help solve those problems. While normal and valid, you actually have very little power over what your partner does or doesn’t do. Your power lies in what you can do and how you can be an agent of positive change to improve your relationship.
Questions are a powerful tool for helping you to identify what you can do and how you can participate in improving your relationship. Empowering questions are those that connect you to a place of love, accountability, compassion, personal empowerment, and conscious choices. Empowering questions can help you to gain new perspectives, shift how you think and feel about your partner or your relationship. They can lead you to deeper levels of awareness about yourself and your partner, and they can inspire more conscious and effective responses that support the positive outcomes you want to experience in your relationship.
Asking empowering questions is so powerful, that it is one of the 5 steps of the foundational skill we teach for transforming relationships– a skill we call Empowered Accountability. While there are infinite empowering questions you might find beneficial at any given moment, we have found the following 5 questions to be particularly powerful and helpful across the board. We call them The ABCDS of Empowered Accountability.
The ABCDS of Empowered Accountability
A: Assume a positive intent– “Assuming there’s a positive intent here, how else can I make sense of what happened?”
Our brains are always trying to make sense of the world around us, but sometimes, the way our partner behaves, well, doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. Yet, our minds are going to try to make sense of it anyways. Often, the way we make sense of confusing or hurtful behavior from our partner is to assume a negative intent. We attribute their behavior to negative qualities about them (they are selfish, they are cruel) or about their intentions (they wanted to upset me, they don’t care about me). This negative sentiment can quickly become the overriding lens through which you make sense of everything your partner does and who they are, ultimately contributing to resentment, dissatisfaction, and conflict in your relationship.
Assuming a positive intent, on the other hand, starts with the assumption that your partner does in fact care about you and would not intentionally try to hurt or upset you. So, if those things are true, how else can you explain their behavior or what happened? Asking this empowering question positions you to start to consider the experience from your partner’s perspective and to imagine how it could make sense from their end (even if you don’t agree). If that’s too difficult to do, this question invites you to be curious to learn the answer to this question from your partner, but again, you are approaching your question now from the base assumption that was positive intent involved. Check out this great podcast from The Gottman Institute for more on how to assume a positive intent.
B: Benefit of the doubt– “What if I gave my partner the benefit of the doubt?”
Similar to assuming a positive intent, this question invites you to reconsider your interpretation of an experience with your partner from a place of trust in their goodwill. In giving your partner the benefit of the doubt, you are making the conscious choice to believe them, or believe in them, despite what doubts might show up for you. This may take a bit of courage; it might involve a bit of risk, but giving your partner the benefit of the doubt is a powerful way to demonstrate your love for and faith in your partner. Asking this question will help to empower you with new ways of thinking and feeling about what’s been happening, and this will allow you to shift and respond in more constructive ways.
C: Contributing– “How am I contributing to what’s happening.”
This is one of our favorite empowering questions. Our affectionate shorthand for it is, “What’s my sh*t to own?” This question acknowledges that, in nearly every situation (with perhaps the exception of abusive dynamics), each person is contributing to the unfolding of an experience. Regardless of who or what may have started the unfolding process, the truth is that you are reacting to it, and how you react influences what happens next. For example, if your partner snaps at you for something, and you react by either snapping back or gently checking in about why your partner seems so upset, then your partner’s next move is going to be in response to whichever reaction you just had.
There are many different ways that each of us contributes to what happens next in our relationships. In our work with couples, for example, we teach a tool we call “The Wheel of Empowerment” that helps identify all of the entry points for influencing the results we get in our lives. Becoming aware of how you are contributing to what’s not working not only empowers you to make a different, more conscious and loving choice about how you want to respond next, it also empowers you to take accountability for how you’ve responded in the past. Accountability is a powerful tool for change, growth, repair, and reconnection in your relationships.
D: Decisions– “What new decisions could I make here?”
Decisions are powerful. When we make a decision, we set our minds in motion to start operating from that decision. For example, if you decide that you and your partner are going to get through this, then your mind will find evidence to support that decision, and your thoughts will move toward how to align with that decision. Your actions will ultimately be more likely to align with that decision as well, and suddenly, you’ve participated in making that decision a reality. Say you decide, however, that things will never get better. There’s just as much power in that decision as well!
Although we don’t usually talk about them this way, our beliefs, expectations, and even actions are all decisions! Often unconsciously, we are deciding what is True (these become beliefs). We are deciding what’s going to happen in the future (expectations) and we are deciding how to respond to those expectations in our present (actions). When you ask yourself what new decisions you could make, you are empowering yourself to move forward with consciousness, in integrity with your highest truth, and aligned with who you want to be and how you want to show up in your relationship.
S: Solution– “How can I be a part of the solution?”
Ultimately, this is the question we hope that you will always land on. And, in truth, it is the intention or outcome of asking any empowered question! In asking yourself how you can be a part of the solution, you are bringing consciousness to what your relationship might need from you in order to move it closer to what you ultimately want– likely some form of connection, security, happiness, intimacy, and love, yeah?
It is easy to identify what your partner could do that would help make things better, but pointing your finger at them gives all of your power away. As I mentioned earlier, there are almost always two people participating in what’s not working, and the flip side of that means that there are always two people who could contribute to the solution. Since you’ve got no control over what your partner does or doesn’t do, why not focus on what you can do!?
What YOU do can improve your relationship, without your partner’s involvement
When I was in graduate school for Marriage and Family Therapy, we studied systems theory. Part of what I learned from the study of systems is that it only takes one person to change a system. Sure, it’s a faster and easier change when multiple parts of a system are actively changing toward the same end goal, but ultimately, it only requires one part of a system to change the whole system! (That’s you, dear one!)
When you ask yourself empowering questions, you are turning your attention to you, which is where your power is. You’re examining how you can shift your perspective, opening up space to soften toward your partner, and connecting with who you want to be and how you want to show up. Most importantly, you are bringing consciousness to your response (as opposed to auto-pilot reactivity, which is what tends to get us in trouble in our relationships!). All of these help empower you to be a part of the solution to whatever problem has presented itself, thus making you a catalyst for change in your relationship, regardless of what your partner does or doesn’t do. You are taking your power back and being an active participant in your life and in the creation of what you really want. And the best part is, when you do this work, the chances increase dramatically that your partner will start to do it too.
If you’d like to explore whether working with us in our Be the One relationship coaching program is a fit, make sure to schedule your FREE 90 minute Relationship Empowerment call!
If you’d like to explore working with us in our Be the One relationship coaching program, make sure to schedule your FREE 90 minute Relationship Empowerment call!
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