Cartesian questions are a way of asking questions which opens the mind to new alternatives and explore all positive alternative solutions, I believe Cartesian questions were first formulated by René Descartes (1596-1650) who was a French philosopher and a mathematician most famous for his quote;
“I think therefore I am”. – Descartes.
Simply put Cartesian questions are used to analyse a single statement to give us any of 4 alternative solutions.
What would happen if you did?
What would happen if you didn’t?
What wouldn’t happen if you did it?
What wouldn’t happen if you didn’t do it?
By using Cartesian questions the process takes us beyond the obvious and helps us to look at a problem from another prospective, for these reasons Cartesian questions are ideal for using in any critical thinking process, therapeutic problem or a business setting, quite simply they let you think of what would or wouldn’t happen if you did or didn’t do something.
I use Cartesian questions in therapy and during coaching sessions as it helps people think beyond the boundaries of their original problem, it therefore helps them find new solutions and resources to whatever their problem is. It is also a very good way of looking for secondary gain and looking for reasons for previous self sabotage in your clients.
Cartesian questions are taught in NLP training to use as part of a ‘loosening’ process and to help the client move beyond their previous mental boundaries and to think differently.