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Positive Questions


Techniques > Questioning > Positive Questions

Underlying principles | Questions that lead | See also


You can get what you want from others by deliberately using leading questions that encourage people to agree with you.

Underlying principles

Positive questioning is based on two principles.

Yes is better than no

Disagreement is a generally uncomfortable experience. It may be considered impolite. When you disagree, you are risking argument, and to argue is to risk failure.

In comparison with the risk and discomfort of disagreement, agreement is generally preferable. When you phrase questions, you should generally make a positive response lead to that which you seek.

(Note that there are some people who delight in disagreement -- if you are dealing with such a person, then you may need to use reverse psychology, creating a situation with which, by disagreeing, they do as you wish.)

Speaking creates

When you say something, then in order to understand what you are saying, the other person has to fully contemplate what you say. So if you say 'do not stand up', then they have to think about standing up in order to decide whether or not to comply, whereas if you said 'stay sitting down' then all they need to do is think about is sitting down (which, in this case, also reinforces their current state).

Consequently, in asking positive questions, you should only say that which you want the other person to contemplate and avoid that which you do not want them to contemplate.

Questions that lead

By using the above questions, the other person can be led into action or otherwise.

Creating positive action

To get somebody to do something positive, ask them by naming the action, and phrased such that saying 'yes' leads to agreement and compliance.

Will you do this work?
I was wondering if you would like to go out with me?
Can you help me take this upstairs?
Will you take a lower sum?

Dissuading action

To get somebody to consider not doing something, whilst appearing to be encouraging them to do it, try using a reversal as below:

Do you mind very much doing this work?
I know you might not want to go out with me, but will you?
Are you just going to sit there watching the football?
Will you move from the price that you have fixed?

Preventing action

To get someone not to do something, use positive framing of the negative task.

Would you prefer to do something else?
Who else do you want to go out with?
Do you want to watch the football?
Do you want me to agree to your price?

See also

Leading Questions, Floppy language


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