Questions (aka The Dangers of Self-Help & Positivity)

The Psychology of Questions

Do you believe in positivity? What about cynicism, do you believe in that?

No, I’m not asking you to be cynical – well, not entirely πŸ˜‰ (though I have to admit I have been called cynical plenty of times) – it’s a question of how much positivity vs. how much cynicism – or simply put, questions.

I cringe when someone tells me I run a self-help site.

I do help people. That’s kind of what consultants are meant to do (i.e. the actual consulting bit is meant to be of use).

I also believe that we are more empowered than ever to help ourselves, for various reasons I’ve written plenty about – we are more wealthy in terms of free resources, information, access and opportunity than ever before.

So what’s wrong with ‘self-help‘?

The problem with some of the standard self-help mantra is it’s all wrong. Wealth gurus who tell you that you just have to believe, the law of attraction telling you that all you need to do is “send your intentions out into the universe” and the universe will answer you with whatever you wish for, people telling you to follow your passion and that all you need to do is find your one true purpose, and you’ll be set.

“You just have to believe….”

Well, no.

There’s a very thin line between powerful self-belief and delusion.

It saddens me to see people who have spent money they don’t have on these wealth or law of attraction based courses and they stumble along, poorer than ever but clinging to the idea that they just need to believe and one day it will happen. It’s a cheap excuse for their ‘teachers’ to then turn round and tell them the only reason it’s not happening is because there must be some part deep inside them where there’s still some doubt. Poor people.

Some positivity definitely helps.

Self belief is awesome. It’s very powerful stuff and we’ve written plenty about it on this very site, but self-belief alone is useless without action and some common sense (e.g. a little course correction if feedback tells you you’re off-track).

Don’t be mislead by the hype.

Where Do Questions Come In?

Positivity does help, but then so can a dose of cynicism.

Recently I have sent out a few email invitations to some selected contacts for a new site I’m putting together all about networking (here it is in case you’d like to take a look & join in: – most replies have been very positive but a few have been cynical – one guy told me that he saw the domain was a sub-domain of lifestoogood so because it had a different name he was suspicious and not sure if he could trust it, another told me that I was only inviting him to my new site because I wanted it to be a success (which is true!) and a third apologized and told me he just doesn’t like to sign-up to ‘these things’ if it involves giving his email address (even though we were connected via LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter (yes, on all 3!) where he had obviously done just that).

The point?

In all 3 cases, I replied to the sender and told them that they were right to be cynical.

Whatever their doubts, they did the right thing by getting them out on the table and telling me. Whether or not these concerns were right or justified, communicating them (even to themselves) meant that they could be addressed.

The Psychology of Questions?

That’s the key point here.

Simple but effective – do you know what happens in our brains when we ask questions?

Questions are something we’re all familiar with, and we all use from time-to-time whether consciously or sub-consciously, but do you realize how significant the difference in your behavior is between when you ask a question and when you make a statement?

When we ask questions, what we’re actually doing is priming our brains to go off and find answers. We are telling ourselves that there is still work to be done. That we are not yet satisfied. This is an active response.

The opposite would be a passive response – a closed statement.

When we ask questions we are opening up our minds to search for answers (as opposed to the passive nature of statements which require no action)

Positive affirmations, though we generally see these as motivational, in certain circumstances can set us up for failure. Shouting at someone ‘Come on, you can do this’ when they are clearly not prepared can be dangerous.

Yes, in some cases it will squash their inhibitions, deliver the motivation they need and be effective.

In others it will mask their inadequacies.

3 Places You Can Use Questions For Better Results Right Now

Here are 3 places where you can easily use questions to improve results in your life or business:

1: In Job Interviews

Pretty obvious really.

Asking pertinent questions in a job interview is one of the best ways there is to show enthusiasm, actually learn more and build rapport with your interviewer.

Often people are actually afraid to ask questions in an interview and often tend to feel and act subservient (bad idea). Asking questions can help you to have a more mature discussion and overcome that tendency.

2: To Address Limiting Beliefs

We’ve written a few articles on Limiting beliefs here:

Limiting Beliefs: Are You Your Biggest Hurdle
Limiting Beliefs II: How To Beat Self-Doubt

One of the best ways to turn a limiting belief into positive self belief (i.e. the non-delusional, not over-exaggerated or fake kind) is to change ‘I can’t do this’ (passive closed statement) into ‘How can I do this?’ (positive, active statement implying that it can be done with some work).

3: In Preparation For A Presentation or Key Event

I think you know what I’d tell you here, but I’d love for you to ask yourself, which is better:

  1. “Yeah! Come on, you can do this!”
  2. “Am I ready for this?”

Clue: this one is not a black or white answer, it depends very much on lots of factors, timing, what preparation has been done so far, what type of person you are etc etc etc, but in general, which do you prefer?

Either ask yourself, or even better, share your opinion on this particular question in the comments below…


Questions (aka The Dangers of Self-Help & Positivity) — 5 Comments

  1. Very well said, Alan!

    I believe the people who teach the so-called law of attraction (and within Christian circles “name it and claim it”) are much like the snake oil salesmen of yore. Is “fraud” to harsh a word?

    Yet, like you, I’m well aware of the thin line. This is part of what I see as the difference — an athlete standing at the start line doesn’t visualize standing on the podium receiving the gold, he does see himself lifting one foot then the next.

    Now, I’m off to check out your link.

    • Thanks Yvonne,

      – and thanks for signing up to Networking Secrets, it will be good to see you there when we launch – there should be some good material (we’ve got a few guest authors I’m quite excited about) and some good discussion – it is a site about networking after all πŸ˜‰

      a bientΓ΄t,

  2. I believe in both positivity and cynicism; I believe in possibilities, so I do believe that cynicism exists, that people are only motivated by self-interest. At the same time, there is a chance that cynicism doesn’t exist or that positivity triumphs over cynicism, so I believe in positivity too πŸ™‚ Or perhaps both exists, but neither is the winner?

    Personally, I like to be cynical. People are selfish, and I am okay with that. But, we have social responsibilities, responsibilities we must meet; we have an obligation towards our species and our planet (perhaps we might not. It’s all about possibilities :D)

    Questions πŸ˜€ I love questions (and I love answering them or trying to find an answer).

    Am I ready for this is way better than I can do this πŸ˜‰ I do agree. I hadn’t realized that until I read a book (it was few months ago. I think the book is “What makes your brain happy and why you shouldn’t do the opposite. I don’t quite remember).

    Ask questions, find answers! You are right, Alan. Asking questions opens up our minds, but we must also be careful not to spend too much time on asking questions. Action is also required, right? Don’t waste our time trying to answer the “impossible” questions – or at least questions that are deemed impossible to answer with our current knowledge.

    • I like that Jeevan – I believe in possibilities. The truth is that they’re everywhere, but we can miss them with both positivity and also with cynicism (it’s possible to go too far either way).

      Yep – am I ready for this is better (usually) in my book too – why? Because by asking ourselves we also challenge ourselves and have to answer that question, then validating that indeed we are ready (or that we aren’t in which case we do something about it rather than stumbling into something unprepared). By challenging ourselves before an important occasion to double-check if we really are ready for something and answering that, we should come out of the other side far more motivated by the answers we have given ourselves than we ever would be from a shallow ‘Go get em tiger!’

      On your final point – yes, questions should be followed by action to address them – just asking questions then hovering around worrying about all the questions is more about procrastination (if you’re interested we have a pretty good article on how to avoid that with a rather amusing vid: How To Avoid Procrastination) – asking a question is just about identifying that there is something to be addressed – you may have the answer immediately or have work to do, either way, whether you take action or not is nothing to do with whether you should have been asking the question in the first place – if there is a question there to be asked, you should be asking it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *