“The pen is mightier than the sword” –Edward Bulwer-Lytton
The power of the pen is well known, but its power stems from the questions it generates. Just like music has the power to calm the savage beast, the right question can do the same thing. When you’re armed with a bank of questions, you truly are “armed.” Questions can:
- Blunt verbal attacks
- Elicit introspection
- Convey a subtle message
- Turn silence into conversation
- Clarify your commitment
- Create empathy
- Focus thought
- Bridge conflict
- Strengthen relationships
How can a question help you fight against these types of circumstances? Consider these questions.
If someone insults or belittles you, ask, “Do you understand why that last joke wasn’t funny?” or “Do you feel justified in speaking about me in that manner?”
If co-workers tell you that your work ethic makes them look bad, ask “Which of my responsibilities would you suggest I ignore?”
If you were publicly embarrassed in front of your boss, privately ask the offender “Do you believe that co-workers should tear each other down in front of the boss?”
Layoffs and firings
It’s a myth that ANY job is recession proof, but if your peers are being laid off or downsized, ask “Is there anything I can do to increase my value to you and the company?” The answer may be no, but you’ve not lost anything by asking. If the answer is yes, you have a road-map to follow for keeping your job.
If you find yourself getting the proverbial pink slip, ask “If a prospective employer calls to ask you about my performance and abilities, what will you say?” Getting fired doesn’t mean you’re incompetent, but you need to insure your employer will blackball you with other employers in the industry. Get a recommendation in writing if possible.
If the other party makes a low ball offer during a negotiation, ask “What’s your reasoning behind that offer?” or “What do you think I would see as a fair offer?” Both questions get to the heart of the issue. the first one forces the other party to support his/her position, and the second causes the other party to focus on something mutually beneficial.
If you reach an impasse, ask “What concession do you need me to make right now to close this deal?”
Asking the right question at the right time can be magical in its ability to alter the discourse into the direction you want.
What makes the question “right?” Using a real question mark rather than an exclamation point is the first step. Don’t make a statement – ask a question.
[tags]questions, power of questions, armed and dangerous[/tags]
Note: Several of these questions come from What to Ask When You Don’t Know What To Say by Sam Deep and Lyle Sussman. It’s out of print, but you might be able to pick one up used.