You can ask one person in the perfect, most eloquent way what they would like from the situation. It totally works for them and you guys see fireworks, the whole nine yards.  The next time you would like to know what a person wants, you ask them in the same beautiful, eloquent way as you asked the first person. You expect fireworks and tears of joy from all parties, but are sadly given a blank stare, or worse, the feeble “I don’t know.”

Miracle Questions

The questions provided below offer:

  • The ability to imagine a past-state experience being pulled into a present or future state
  • The ability to imagine the qualities which you would like to be associated with in the present

With Miracle Questions, you can connect a person (or yourself) with an abstract vision they have of a quality or way-of-being that they wish they could embody in the moment. That wish is similarly a statement of a miracle. For example, “I wish I was more patient right now’ said by the person, could turn into your response question “When in your past have you experienced patience in a way you’d like to experience it now?” – and then, after they describe that quality fully, pulling that vision into the present – “Where can you experience that kind of patience now?” or “What could magically change in your present to allow you to experience that patience today?”

Some Why’s…

  • Asking people to consider that a miracle has occurred opens up a range of future possibilities.
  • Individuals are encouraged to dream as a way of identifying the changes they want to see.
  • Miracle questions encourage people to consider a different kind of situation not dominated by the particular problem.
  • This tool shifts the focus from past/current problems toward a more satisfying situation in the future.
  • Get them to reveal who they are when they are at their best, when they are the most authentic in the most positive way; when they feel free.
  • Critically, this tool seeks to shift the idea that “I can’t” do it, to “I have done it, and I could do it again.” The person stops seeing themselves as broken, and sees a path in and part of themselves . . . one they can walk again. With your support/scaffolding, you ensure they will walk it again, perhaps in baby steps, yet stepping forward.
  • Miracle questions are not abstract as the process moves forward; they are mental role plays with significant detail that will allow for actual replication when the time comes. Check out the video!

Some How’s…

  • Being in rapport, adding humor, creating a bright and hopeful state of mind is key to a brighter future.
  • Speak the question slowly, for effect and comprehension. If met with “I don’t know,” allow for a respectful silence, being in silent empathy/rapport. Follow with, “If you did know . . .” or “play with me for fun.”
  • Ask what the first, baby step might be to accomplishing this change and set specific, concrete goals. Alternately, you can encourage individuals to enact what would be different, despite perceived problems or difficulties. For example, if the problem is that Sally is shy and thus has difficulty making friends, and her miracle future includes being more outgoing, encourage Sally to act as Future Sally might for a few minutes with you.
  • “I can see that things have been really difficult for you, yet I am struck by the fact that, even so, you manage to get up each morning and do everything necessary to get things done. How do you do that?” Genuine curiosity and admiration can help to highlight strengths without appearing to contradict the person’s view of reality.
  • Key into the person’s resources: internal skills/strengths/beliefs, and external like friends and groups.

Examples of essentially asking “what do you want?”

If someone were to ask about who you are, you’d hope they’d describe you in the following way:

Committed Respectful Organized Interested Creative Likable Positive Optimistic
Honest Punctual Curious Proactive Flexible Thoughtful Generous Fun
Joyful Responsible Disciplined A Leader Motivated Contributory Self-Aware Autonomous
Purposeful Self-Aware Goal-Oriented Energetic Wise Courageous Lovely Spirited
Spiritual Charitable Caring Kind Loving Humble Sociable Independent
  • If the world were perfect, what would be the end result of this situation? How would you feel? What would you be doing? What would you be thinking? (Goal: achieve these thoughts, feelings, actions)
  • Let’s say that tonight you go to sleep and there is a miracle, where this situation is suddenly, magically, fixed. You go to sleep and sometime in the night everything falls right into perfect place, where everybody is happy. When you wake up, what is the first sign that things have been fixed? What do you feel? Think? Do? (Goal: achieve these thoughts, feelings, actions)
  • Has there been a time in the past when you have been able to do ___(kind of thing – domain – can work better than a narrow skill)_____ successfully? Re-live that moment for me . . . what were you doing, thinking, feeling? Now, imagine how it could go well in the future, specifically. (Goal: get back to doing/feeling/thinking like the times in the past when things have been different, and bring that feeling and skill memory forward)
  • How does what you are doing work for you? What need does it meet for you? How can we meet that need in a different, more productive way that meets my need for ______? Or the relationship’s need for ____?
  • What would someone very important to this person say that you needed/wanted to do?
  • Let yourself imagine that after this conversation, ________ had already happened/changed. What will you be doing differently? (The key word here is will, suggesting confidence that the change will occur).