The Role of Questions in Persuasion and Influence, Part

Strategic questions can be used to improve the influencer’s approach during a conversation – but more importantly, this technique can be used to improve your chances of changing the subject’s mindset. In a previous discussion I gave a list of different questions that the influencer can use to increase his insight during any social interaction.

In today’s discussion we are going to discuss how you can use questions to alter the subject’s perception and decision-making. One of the hardest truths that every master influencer has to contend with is the fact that you cannot replace good questions with any other language pattern. Nothing comes close to the impact of questions.

So before you use complex language patterns, ask yourself this: have you maximized the potential power of strategic questioning? If you haven’t, I highly recommend that you do and for good reason – formulating and using good questions is far easier than using complex language patterns.

I’m not saying that persuasive language patterns should be ignored, all I’m saying here is that if you can conserve your cognitive resources for a potentially long battle ahead, do so.

Here are some strategic questions that you may want to use if you think your subject is more concerned with formulating objections than with agreeing with your requests:

How would you like to enjoy _____________ by ____________ ? (This question focuses on the main benefit of what you are offering; the subject must comply with what you are requesting before he can enjoy the main benefit)

Have you ever wondered how you can actually get _____________? (Instead of saying that you want the subject to comply, state that he can achieve something instead; follow up with the process that will help him attain the goal which is really just complying with you)

Tell me, what really matters to you in your __________? (While this question will not give you immediate compliance/agreement, it will help you understand how the subject thinks and this information can be used later on to mold or modify your plan of attack)

How much better would your ___________ be if ___________? (This question is a little tricky because you will have to connect your current goal with what the subject considers important in his own life. For example, if you are trying to sell a magazine subscription, you have to think of how the magazine subscription would actually improve his life. Think fast! This question pattern can really make your subject think hard and it will help you gain agreement).

Can you imagine how delighted everyone at __________ would be when they find out that you chose to ____________? (This question pattern is quite sneaky – you will actually be evoking specific positive emotions in the person so that he will create a natural connection between what you need him to do and the idea that people who matter to him will approve of what he will do)

These are just five patterns that you can use to improve your chances of gaining compliance from someone. Of course, not every question in the list I have just provided will be appropriate for every situation. There will be some situations wherein one question may seem odd or completely inappropriate.

For example, you wouldn’t say “can you imagine how delighted everyone at _________ would be when they find out that you chose to _________?” to your boss.

Asking such a question will most likely backfire on you and would result in a lose-lose situation because you will be seen as someone who does not know other people’s boundaries.

Before asking any strategic question, think hard twice, thrice or even four times. Will the question really contribute to your goal of gaining compliance in the first place?

You also have to examine the risk level. All persuasive tactics have a certain degree of risk attached to them. Master influencers are willing to risk it because they would do anything to attain their goals (this is probably the reason why influencers achieve more of their goals, because they are not afraid to test their theories in the real world).

Now, always remember that you should never use “orphaned questions”. When you ask one strategic question (and you get the desired response), follow that question with another strategic question to get the momentum going. Momentum is your best friend when you are using this technique because the more momentum you have, the higher the chances of being able to convince the other person to just say yes.

It is also important to note here that you should never be completely dependent on logic and rationalism when you are trying to persuade someone to see things your way.

You see, it has been long established that people are more likely to say “yes” if you make use of emotional triggers and response triggers that are rooted in the non-rational/non-logical. What does this mean? Well, a person can be very logical (because that is how he perceives himself and that is how he chooses to express himself to the world) but that does not mean that he can suppress his instinctual responses.

A person who suddenly becomes overjoyed at hearing something will say “yes!” more quickly than a person who feels depressed and betrayed. I want you to find that one trigger that matters the most to your subject and use that trigger to gain compliance.

Do not impose your own brand of logic to the subject because it may take too long before he comes around and second, he might not come around at all because logic is almost always subordinated by irrationalism.

In short – a person will most likely choose to follow his own irrational beliefs and emotions than to listen to you. So do not assume for one second that you can make someone agree with you just because you have a bulletproof, logical argument. It doesn’t work that way – and in our day and age, the more you rely on logic, the more you lose out on the opportunity to persuade people more quickly.