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Welcome to my blog. I post my musings on life, work, finance, and personal development. Opinions expressed are mine, not those of my employer.

Have you considered this?

Have you considered this?

Socrates is famous for his persuasive use of questions. By framing questions in such a way as to generate agreement, he could gradually shift a person's perspective toward one aligned with his own thinking.

Similarly, Dale Carnegie encourages influencers to ask questions rather than giving direct orders. "Asking questions not only makes an order more palatable, it often stimulates the creativity of the persons whom you ask."

I recently used a variation of this technique when I critiqued the work of one of my authors. "What do you want me to do?" he asked. I replied, "what I want you to do is to come up with a brilliant solution I would never have imagined. If that is not possible, you might try..."

Think of a time when you were asked to do something and were reluctant to do so. Did the request conflict with the way you thought things should be done? One reason that people often balk at instructions is simply cognitive dissonance. Having a belief established in our mind, we tend to defend it vigorously when challenged. Our minds are closed to anything different.

Now think of a time that you came up with a creative solution to a problem. Chances are, you did not have any preconceived idea of how things ought to be. You were open to a wide range of possibilities. By asking questions or otherwise stimulating creativity we can open the mind a bit to these other possibilities.

In Pre-suasion, Dr. Robert Cialdini gives another example of the persuasive power of questions when he suggests opening a job interview by asking the interviewer "what were the things that attracted you to my application?" One obvious benefit to this question is that it tells you what the interviewer considers important, and you can tailor your answers to subsequent questions accordingly. Perhaps more importantly, though, it starts the interview off by having the employer describe your most positive attributes. Once they have committed to having a positive impression of you, it can be hard to shake them off of it.

Have you tried this technique? How did it work?

Photo by Henry Lydecker

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