Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Power of Probing Questions

The best way to win an argument is to avoid it.  Rather than fighting with the other side, why not try understanding why your opponent is disagreeing with you?  Children do this naturally.  They ask the why questions, like, "Why can't I stay out late?" or "Why do I have to follow your rules?"  They're probing.  My favorite probing question is, "Why do you feel that way?"  It forces the other side to share feelings.  In order to find areas of agreement, you need to get past the first why question and dig deeper, like peeling away layers of an onion.  It looks like this:

You ask:  "Why do you think your idea is the best solution?"

Opponent answers:  "Because that's the way I always do things."

Follow-up question to probe deeper:  "Why do you always do things the same way?"

Opponent answers:  "Because it works for me."

You ask, "Would you consider trying a new approach so we can compare it to the way you always do things and see if the new idea might give us better results?"

These probing questions allow you to understand what motivates your opponent.  You are looking for areas of agreement.  This method keeps the focus on how the other side feels.  Try it.  Let me know if this helps.

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