Ask Questions If You Want to Influence Effectively

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1 – Why ask questions?

Your Brain On Questions

True questions bypass the amygdala, an almond-shaped part of the brain that is like your body’s guard dog. When new information comes in, the amygdala decides, “is this a threat?” If it decides that there is a threat, even a low-level one, it will begin ‘barking’ and release chemicals that will help move you to physical safety more quickly. While that’s helpful in times of physical danger, it increases resistance to being influenced. By bypassing the amygdala with questions and engaging the neo-cortex you increase your chance of being a positive influence.

Listen for Connection

If you listen for ways to connect and be on the same side and areas of common ground, you increase resonance, something Howard Gardner describes as a key factor in changing someone’s mind.

Request vs. Demand

As Dr. Marshall Rosenberg notes in his book Nonviolent Communication, a request enlists the other person as a common ally and allows a person to independently choose to help, something we all long to do. A demand doesn’t give the option of choice and creates resistance

Can You Handle the Truth?

The challenge of questions is that you have to really want to hear the answers. If you ignore the person’s answer (both verbal and non-verbal), you destroy any resonance you have begun to create and give the other person a really good reason to feel resistance. And if you do hear a difficult answer, will you be able to both connect with them empathically and offer a substantive solution?

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