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Question Strategy

It can be difficult to communicate with the other Control Girl in your life. Especially if she’s creating a lot of tension and is unreasonable. So what can you do? How can you break free from the deadlock her behavior has on your relationship? Sometimes, a well placed question can be helpful.

How do I know questions are an effective strategy? Because my husband uses them on me all of the time!

When I’m trying to take control, there’s almost always a “why” behind the behavior. It might be an ulterior motive, a fear, or an unhealthy goal that I’m not sharing. Often I’m not even thinking about my “why”, and I might not even be aware that something is fueling my controlling behavior.

Then Ken will very gently ask, “Honey, what is it that you’re worried about?” Or, “What’s wrong? Is there something upsetting you?” His question does two things. It lets me know (in a non-inflammatory way) that my behavior is causing him concern or frustration. And it allows me to consider my own heart.

A quiet question can let your Control Girl know (in a non-inflammatory way) that her behavior is causing you concern or frustration. And it invites her to consider the WHY behind her behavior. Click To Tweet

God’s Questions

But here’s an even better reason for asking questions. It’s what God does. When I was studying my seven controlling women of the Bible while I wrote Control Girl, I was intrigued by the way God asked questions rather than supplying answers. For example:

When Eve was hiding with Adam in the Garden, God asked, “Where are you? What have you done?” (Gen. 1:8-13)

When Sarah was eavesdropping from the tent flap as God predicted her pregnancy, He asked, “Why did Sarah laugh? Is anything to hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18: 9-16)

When Hagar ran away into the wilderness to escape Sarah’s cruelty, God asked, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” (Gen. 16:7-10)

When Miriam was complaining about Moses, God interrupted and asked, “Why were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” (Numbers 12:1-9)

Each story involved a Control Girl wanting control. And each time, rather than spelling out her sinfulness, God posed a question. Obviously the questions were rhetorical, since God is all-knowing. So why did He ask them? He was inviting them to consider the “why” behind the behavior.

Now, you and I shouldn’t try to play God. That never goes well. But rather than stonewalling, avoiding, ignoring, blowing up, pointing fingers, or storming off, we can model God’s patience and concern by asking good questions.

The “Why”

We Control Girls act the way we act because we think the way we think. Consider the “why” behind these examples:

A. Your mother-in-law is hovering, nagging, and obsessing about the fiftieth anniversary party you’re throwing her and your father-in-law. She keeps insisting on spending more than you had planned and checking up on every tiny decision. Why?

B. Your mom has been interjecting her opinion constantly regarding your special needs son’s schooling for next year. She has called several schools herself. She has dominated each conversations with you, repeatedly offering her arguments for a particular school. And when you say you’re still considering options, she has treated you disrespectfully by rolling her eyes and storming off. Why?

C. Your daughter-in-law is completely stressed out about her work. Her anxiety is affecting your son, the kids, and you! She is constantly asking you to watch the kids, and fretting about whether you’re caring for them correctly. Last week she said she might need to just put them in daycare, after she learned that you had allowed them to watch several television shows that day. She is rude and unappreciative. Why?

Why? What is prompting this Control Girl behavior? Perhaps…

  • She wants to be admired.
  • She is obsessed with what people think.
  • She doesn’t trust God.
  • She’s convinced that no one can manage as well as she can.
  • She’s doesn’t believe she can be happy unless she’s in control.
  • She is insecure and craves approval.
  • She’s pushing herself to do more than she’s physically able.

Proceed with Caution

Now before you jump into designing a question that might draw out the “why”, I have to remind you. You must surrender this situation to God before you ask your question. If you’re trying to use a question to gain control, you’ll only repeat history. You’ll become a Control Girl trying to control the other Control Girl. These posts, remember, are about, How to be Free of that Other Control Girl“. Our way to be free is not taking control, but giving control to God! So if you need to, go back and review the first few posts:

Let God Write the End of the Story

Make (or put into practice?) a Surrender Strategy

Stop Caving In

Ok, we’re almost ready to design your question, but one more word of caution. Please remember that it’s not your job to judge your Control Girl’s heart. Yes, there is a “why” behind her behavior and yes, it probably involves some sort of fin. (This is true most of the time for all of us.) And yes, you’re the one who who has to deal with the fallout.

But God does not need you to stand in for Him as judge. No, no, no He does not. Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you… Judge not that you not be judged.” (Luke 6:27, 37). If your Control Girl senses judgment from you, she will withdraw and put up her guard. Instead, show that you love her and are concerned. Promote peace by being gentle and selfless.

How to Design a Question

Ok, are you ready? If your heart is surrendered before the Lord, and void of all control strategies and tactics, it’s time to get to work on your question…

First, think about what might be the “why”. Imagine what is going on in the other Control Girl’s heart. Ask God to give you compassion and understanding.

Then, design your question to draw out that “why” in a gentle way. Imagine her answering the question. Will she be offended by this question? Will her guard go up? Then go back to the drawing board and work some more. Take some time to carefully consider how to pose a question in a non-threatening way. Consider what would be a home run response from her. Then work backward from there. Design your question to offer the best possible opportunity for her to consider her heart.

You might also begin with something positive. She probably has good motives tangled up with poor ones. Choose something good and single that out. Share something goodhearted about the way you see her or your hopes for her. You’re not being manipulative; you’re just letting her know that you do really see the positive in her.

Last, wait for the right opportunity. Pray that God provides it, if He would like you to ask. Please, oh please, do not go rushing in. Be gentle. Be wise. Wait, wait, wait for the right opportunity. Surrender this also, to Him. And pray, pray, pray that God will use your question to open her eyes. But have a question ready and waiting, in case the right opportunity presents itself.

Some Examples

Here are a few questions, which correlate the previously mentioned examples.

  1. In a non-threatening way and a sweet tone of voice, ask your mother-in-law, “I can tell this party is really important to you, and I really want to help make it a special day for you. Is there anything in particular that you’re concerned about? Or is there something you’d especially like me to avoid?”
  2. During a peaceful moment, and with a gentle tone, ask your mom, “Thanks for being so invested in Johnny’s school decision. Is there something you’re concerned that I don’t see or understand?”
  3. At a time when your daughter-in-law is not stressed or rushed, say, “I am so proud of you as my daughter-in-law. You are so protective of the kids and you’re putting in so much effort at work. Is there anything I could do with the kids that would make you feel more loved or supported?”

The Goal

Questions are an investment, that’s for sure. Each one of these questions would require extra measures of humility and grace. And there’s no guarantee that the question would produce positive results. But like I said at the beginning, the goal of offering a kind, compassionate, carefully measured question to a Control Girl is two fold:

First, your question lets her know (in a non-inflammatory way) that her behavior is causing you concern or frustration. Now, you don’t have to say this! (Please don’t.) Your questions says it for you.  The fact that you are inquiring at all sends a message that you perceive something is not quite right and you hope there will be improvements.

Second, your question allows her opportunity to consider “why” behind her behavior. Remember, there’s a good chance she’s never even thought about the question you’re posing. And there’s an even better chance that she doesn’t realize the hurt she’s creating with her controlling behavior.

Whatever you do, keep this as your anchor: God is in control. Nothing escapes His attention and nothing falls outside the bounds of His loving care. What this other Control Girl needs and what you and I need are the same: We need God to open our eyes and convict us of sin. We need to put our hope in Him, and not ourselves. And we need to release control to God in order to find the peace, security, and joy that we crave.


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