When we want people to act or think a certain way, our instinct is to force. To explain with long-winded comments or monologues.
Those don’t work.
In fact, research shows this approach makes your audience more rigid in their beliefs—it backfires. You end up pushing people in the opposite direction.
The human tendency is to become more rigid when challenged; it’s a defense mechanism.
This is our most innate approach. So changing it is hard.
Asking questions is step one.
Challenge yourself to avoid statements.
Try this your next conversation: ask only questions. Usually, your audience won’t realize that your every sentence ended with a question mark.
They will likely think you are a good conversationalist even though they did all the talking.
This would be your first way of training to ask more questions. Do this more often and you'll get better.
This takes awareness. So make sure you remain aware of exactly what you are thinking and saying.
Step 2 is to become better at “leading the witness.” Lawyers do this.
You want to ask questions in a way that leads people to the conclusion you want them to reach. What happens is, by arriving at a conclusion through their own words, you are bringing them to your side without them realizing it.
Now that may sound immoral, but it’s not; not always, that is.
This is persuasion. Many times, persuading a person to change their mind or do something else is in their best interest.
This process is known as The Socratic Method, and it’s taught in law schools for a reason: because it works.
Compare this strategy to long emails, long comments, or speaking a bunch of words at a person.
How often does this style do anything to help your cause?
(See what I did?)
(Whoops, I did it again.)
Step 3 in becoming a better asker of questions would be questioning yourself. This level can change your life, but that’s best saved for another day.
Try it. Ask yourself hard questions and objectively answer them.
To recap, this is where you can start:
1. Find opportunities in your human discussions to ask more, or only, questions.
2. Next, try to ask better questions that lead to your desired outcome
You might think I'm trying to turn into a robot, but you will be able to throttle this to have better conversations.
As you get better, you’ll start to develop an intuition of what the right ratio of questions to statements is based on your audience.
And you’ll use this in your human interactions with great effect.
People will open up to you more.
You will better understand them.
You'll avoid many of the mental traps that you fall into as a human because you'll be more careful with what you say.
You’ll think more and become more self-aware.
All great stuff.
As a society, we need more people asking questions.
As an individual, you probably need to ask more questions while making less statements.