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Progressive Guesswork


Techniques General persuasion > Being Right > Progressive Guesswork

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



If you are talking with a person about something where they may know better than you, then make short statements and test for agreement at each step. This is better than speaking at length and possibly getting yourself into trouble when they effectively tell you that you are talking nonsense.

Testing for agreement can be done in a few ways. Firstly, you can directly ask them, pausing to ask if they agree or understand. For example you can ask 'Is that right?' or 'Does that make sense to you?'

Another approach is to use tag questions, such as 'The world is round, isn't it?' This offers the chance to disagree but is largely rhetorical so it will be less likely that you are challenged here.

A final way of allowing challenge is to pause, giving space for listeners to interrupt. This can be encouraged by looking directly at them and raising the eyebrows in an unspoken invitation.

This method can be used to build rapport when you want to sound like you understand a person. Just make brief statements about them and listen to their response. If they disagree, say something like 'of course' or thank them, perhaps looking a little surprised.

As necessary, use reframing to make it all seem intentional. Then move on, asserting and testing the next point.


The house should have three bedrooms. Is that enough? And a big kitchen. ... And a manageable garden ...

She is qualified, isn't she? And she has experience? Then she is the right person, wouldn't you say?

You will meet a tall, dark stranger. Would this be right for you? ... You will have a thrilling romance with him. ... Would you like that?


By inviting or allowing comment, you let the other person into the conversation, showing interest and concern for them. This leads them to like you more and hence reduces the chance of critical challenge.

When you give brief space for questions, many will not challenge either because it seems impolite or because they cannot think of a response at that time. Then, having had their chance, they will be less likely to challenge you in future.

This is an approach that mentalists and 'mystics' may use when reading your character or foretelling the future. It allows them to make a string of assertions, discarding those that do not stick and building on those that are accepted. This gives them much useful information about you. It is also used by sales people and those who want to quickly build rapport.

See also

Conversation techniques

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