A new purpose for Socratic questioning in coaching

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Socratic questioning in coaching is a dialectic method, whose object is to bring to light the objective ‘truth’ behind a given matter, using questions that unveil what is implicitly known or disentangle the contradictions of a person’s beliefs. This method is central in cognitive-behavioral coaching, and is effectively used in therapeutic, educational, and leadership settings. Given its pragmatic focus, Socratic questioning has been applied on individuals’ specific challenges, goals, and behaviors. However, reflecting on the Socrates persona and the individual and societal challenges of the post-modern society, we suggest that this method could be re-interpreted to serve a twofold, hierarchical purpose in coaching. At the lower-level, and in the short-term, Socratic questioning’s goal is to unfold objective truths over given matters and to guide discovery in the interlocutors, as it helps coachees to overcome specific challenges. However, drawing upon a Third Generation Coaching perspective, we suggest a higher-order, long-term purpose of Socratic questioning. Third Generation Coaching claims that meaningful dialogues are collaborative and co-creative in nature, and emerge when moments of symmetry and resonance are experienced by the dialogue partners. Notably, Socrates practiced boêtheia (partnership) and maieutikós (midwifery) in his dialogues, clearly denoting his ethics’ collaborative and co-creative orientation. Accordingly, the high-order purpose of Socratic questioning is to create partnership, moments of symmetry, and resonance in the dialogue partners, which allows for meaning-making, self-reflection, shared-reflection, and shift in narrators’ perspectives. In this light, Socratic questioning helps fostering long-lasting, value-based personal growth in all dialogue partners.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPhilosophy of Coaching: An International Journal
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)21-32
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2023
EventA New Purpose for Socratic Questioning in Coaching - University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 19 Apr 202319 Apr 2023


WorkshopA New Purpose for Socratic Questioning in Coaching
LocationUniversity of Copenhagen
Internet address

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Science - Socratic questioning, Socrates, Meaning-making dialogues, Third generation coaching, Values, Partnership

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