09 Feb 4 Useful Questions To Ask So You Know Who You’re Talking To – Reaction Questions
“Who asks leads” is a slogan that has always had a deep impact on me since my early education. At first I thought it was some sort of provocation, then I figured it was about manipulation, and then I finally understood what it really was about. Did I interest you? Do you understand what the real meaning is?
You see? This is a clear example of what I mean when I wrote who asks, leads.
Let me explain. Some of you may have mentally answered “yes,” confirming the belief that this article has useful content. Some of these people may also notice their desire to know more increase, while others may wonder about how to use questions. In these two hypotheses we may think it has something to do with power.
So what’s the usefulness of these questions? I believe it is so that we can be better professionals (power as “mastering”), or to connect with people for whom communication is a difficult thing (“relational power”) and so on.
Some of you may have mentally answered “no” to the question. Some may have felt frustrated by not understanding the real meaning, while others may have felt challenged (“I’ll understand that sooner than you will!”); while others may have had an emotional old wound reopened (for example “I never understand a thing” or “oh dear, my father always asked me this!”).
These are just a few examples, but cases and shades of meaning may be endless. What I am wanting to do is to cast some light on how an apparently simple and inoffensive question can trigger a powerful series of thoughts, reactions, memories, and identifications. Either you answered yes or no, and whatever happened next had a lot to do with me, because the only thing I did not create is the starting point. If I hadn’t asked a question, if I had used other sentences, all of this probably wouldn’t even have started.
The power of the Reaction Questions
“Who asks leads” may be interpreted as who asks inevitably leads the listener in some emotional, cognitive, or relational way. Being able to see this cognitive/experiential world is the biggest thing we can do in order for us to understand it. It is the interlocutor’s patterned way of thinking, experiencing emotions and relationships. This is why I called them Reaction Questions. If, on the other hand, I had asked a direct question (eg: the typical “content questions,” such as “which emotion are you experiencing?”), perhaps our interlocutors would be able to tell us what they have in mind and what they are experiencing.
It therefore becomes possible to bypass pre-formulated answers; something developed for fear of being judged, being incapable of a correct self evaluation and other phenomena which make answers to direct questions useless. If you try to ask someone “do you trust me?” how many people do you think will answer you in an honest way (honest to both us and themselves)? Also, there are contexts where direct answers cannot be given because the question may address the problem itself, but those who are unable to stay present in mutual relationships do not even know that the problem exists.
In order to fully grasp the opportunity to know someone through their world we need to do the following:
- correctly ask targeted questions
- be able to detect where the other “is being led”
- keep rapport
- make a hypothesis which can be verified and confirmed through the use of other questions or other tools.
Questions play a major role in our protocol and working patterns, in order for us to assess the many areas we deal with. That’s why we put a lot of effort into duly and deeply studying them. Here are some of my favorites, with a comment.
MY 4 FAVORITE REACTION QUESTIONS
What are you NOT thinking of right now?
This is a pattern interruption question. Well, actually it is not simply a question, but a clear technique, one of my favorites. People do not expect such a question and this can lead to important reactions: confusion, loss of direction, anger, blaming someone else (“I don’t understand what he’s asking me”), cognitive overload, fight or flee from the challenge etc.
Can you give to me/let me try/show me?
This is a useful question when dealing with an object which is important to the interlocutor, such as “what a beautiful watch, can you show it to me?” or “what a nice car, can I drive it later?”
I think this is the realest question on possession I have ever heard. The interlocutor may try to inhibit the real incoming answer, but instead eventually say, “yes, you can”, but clearly exhibit muscular stiffening, swallowing or pulling the thing towards themselves. These are all clues showing us that, for them that the question feels provocative to their nervous system and makes them feel vulnerable. This, then, can open many worlds of exploration about possession, control, trust, personal resources etc.
The Unexpected Question
For instance, a sudden change of topic, when you are talking about work and you suddenly come out with a statement like: “I know you love red beer.”
It is not an explicit question as there is no question mark, but there is a final implied – “don’t you?”. This is a very useful question to evaluate how rigid someone’s mental patterns can be; to assess their flexibility and availability, or even their willingness to change to a more personal topic and talk about more pleasant things.
Saying What Is Forbidden
Saying what is not socially accepted, for instance “I am getting bored.”
Even though this is not an explicit question, it can cause the interlocutor to ask one or more questions, thus triggering their answers. For example, “Is it my fault?”; “Do I have to bear this burden?”; “Shall I change something?”; “Why are you doing this to me?”. This opens a series of fascinating speculations about safety systems, responsibility, role and identity, managing one’s and others’ emotions.
6 MORE USEFUL REACTION QUESTIONS
- You really are a special person, help me understand how?
- Are you sure you are the one who chooses?
- How much are you afraid of freedom?
- How many things that you like, do you forsake? Let’s be honest for 5 minutes – why do you do that?
- How much energy do you give others, that you could use for yourself?
- Are you living against your own essential nature?
An Important Tip To Using Them in Virtually Every Context
When teaching these techniques, I often notice a recurring resistance in professionals. Despite their enthusiasm, they always have a hard time putting them into practice, especially the most interactive questions. The alleged reason was that some types of professionals need to keep a distance and therefore cannot allow letting their interlocutors (clients, patients, colleagues, etc.) experience something or ask provocative questions. I want to reassure these people: these are only questions aimed at triggering certain types of reactions. After that, it is always possible to explain to your interlocutor the real meaning and intention and that you did not really want to try their car. Likewise, they should not have to justify or explain why they like or prefer red beer. Anyway, there is usually no need to explain; the richness of the exploration that follows is so interesting that your interlocutor will no longer be interested in the question.
There is no need to ask these questions at the first meeting. They will form part of your repertoire and, with your ongoing experience and sensitivity, you will intuitively know when and how to ask them.
The examples I used come from my favorite questions, and I’ll bet there are many variations, even some non-intrusive ways.