Socratic Questioning, Critical Thinking and The Meta Model

The Meta Model is one of the most powerful tools for conversational change. It allows the practitioner to guide the client to find out revelations and understandings about themselves  and their understanding of the world just by asking carefully structured questions. By using the Meta Model we can uncover the evidence and references (or lack thereof). It is an exceptionally powerful too for Critical Thinking. Critical Thinking is a type of reflective thinking that is aimed at deciding what to believe or what to do.

This process of Critical Thinking, of using questions to help a person reach a deeper understanding, can be traced back to the the process of teaching and debating developed by Socrates. Socratic Questioning is a systematic, disciplined, and deep process of questioning that usually focuses on fundamental concepts, principles or problems. It can be used to pursue a thought it many directions for many purposes from exploring complex idea to getting to the “truth of things”. Because of this, Socratic Questions is an incredible powerful tool in areas such as therapy, argumentation and teaching.

It It has been used in schools and universities to probe student thinking, to determine the extent of student knowledge on a given topic or to help students analyse a concept or line of reasoning. For me, the Socratic approach (combined with unconscious instillation) is one of the most powerful ways to teach NLP (or any subject).

Commonly Socratic Questioning can be split into 6 different categories of questions:

1. Clarify The Thought Process

  • “Why do you say that?”
  • “Could you explain further?”

2. Challenge Assumptions

  • “Is this always the case?”
  • “Why do you think that this assumption holds here?”

3. Explore the Evidence or Referential Basis for The Argument

  • “How do you know that?”
  • “Why do you say that?”
  • “Is there reason to doubt this evidence?”

4. Explore Alternative Viewpoints and Perspectives

  • “What is the counter argument for … ?”
  • “Can/did anyone see this another way?”

5. Explore the Implications and Consequences

  • “But if…happened, what else would result?”
  • “How does…affect…?”

6. Question the Question

  • “Why do you think that I asked that question?”
  • “Why was that question important?”
  • “Which of your questions turned out to be the most useful?”

Do you notice a similarly between these and the Meta Model questions you may ask?

By understanding a little about the Socratic Method, it can vastly improve your skill with the Meta Model for Critical Thinking, and by combing aspects of the Meta Model and Socratic Questioning it can vastly improve your critical thinking skills and your ability to persuade, teach (and win arguments!)

To learn more about the Meta Model, click here.

About Matt Caulfield