Help People Change with the Magic Question

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The Magic Question Tool uses self-discovery to help people change. It focuses on simple, small actions rather than significant or more complex issues. This tool isn't for you if you prefer to give advice.

While not always the case, the tools that promote self-discovery work best for me. Typically, when you listen and ask questions, you understand people better. And they know what to do because they work things out for themselves.

Help People Change with the Magic Question


People come for help when they see their situation as out of control. Their situation overwhelms them, and they feel powerless. In those times, people make poor decisions.

They often can't focus or get clear about the next step or action. Some people are unresponsive since they only see complexity even when their issue is relatively simple.

That is where the magic question tool is helpful. You help them see their situation differently. You help them focus on small things to do or manage. When that happens, you help people change!

Each of the 4 points below deserves more detail, so please watch the video for more insight. 

  1. Determine the problem that they want to address
  2. Have them rate where they are now with that problem using a 1‐10 scale, where the number 10 is totally solved, and 1 is awful
  3. State, “We only want to move up the scale 1/2 or 1 point.”
  4. Discuss why that is so important (prevents overwhelm, encourages small steps)


Once you get through those important elements, it's time for the Magic Question. Here is a simple form of the question.

  1. “Suppose a miracle happens tonight while you are asleep and your problem goes away - it is completely gone. But you were sleeping, so you don't know that the problem is gone. When you wake up, though, you notice some things are different.
  2. "What small signs tell you the problem is gone?”
  3. The small signs are often the steps they could take now to help

Identify Small Steps to Help People Change

Help them find the small steps that move the number up ½ or 1 point.

Identifying the steps requires thoughts, questions, and effort from both of you. Unfortunately, they tend to focus on their problem or where they are now. So, make sure they understand the context of the question. It is about what they see when they wake up in the morning and what they see at that time. In other words, what differences they see now since the problem is gone - it is no longer an issue!

Sometimes they list some very simple things. In one case, a woman had filed divorce papers. She saw these small changes that told her that the relationship problems were gone. She said:

  1. I would hug him when I first saw him in the morning
  2. If he wanted breakfast, I would make him breakfast
  3. And I would kiss him goodbye before he left

Pretty simple, right! Well, I asked if she would do those things for 30 days. She did, and she threw the divorce papers away. They began to work things out.

Small things make a big difference in helping people change. What small things do you need to do to resolve one of your big problems? 


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