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Cross-Examining vs. Curiosity

Posted on July 29, 2009

Use active listening skills when asking questions, advises Andrea Schneider (bio).


So when you're thinking about the tone and when you're asking questions and trying to listen to the other side, we all know the questions that are really statements, "Isn't that a dumb idea?" That's not a question. That's a judgment, right? The classic one, "Are you going to wear that tonight?" That's not a question! That is a statement on, "Oh, my gosh. I won't be seen in public with you wearing that. Please go change."

People know when you're asking questions to actually find out information versus when you're leading them down the primrose path of judgment in which you're just waiting to drop the sledgehammer at the end in order to prove that you were right.

So questions that sound like you're being cross-examined, questions that are really judgments in the form of questions are completely unhelpful, and people know that. So the questions really have to come from this stance of curiosity. I am genuinely curious to find out how you were thinking then. And that's hard. That's not an easy thing to keep the judgment out of your voice when what you're thinking is I'm really curious how you got to that insanely stupid conclusion based on the same data that I thought.

I mean, the point of the active listening and really trying to find out how they're thinking is so that you can better persuade them. If you're trying to persuade somebody to do something that you want, understanding where they're coming from is like having a map of the country you want to invade, right? You're trying to change their mind. You need to know where their mind is now in order to switch it.

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Excerpted from interview with professor at the 2009 Career Development Institute for Psychiatry in Palo Alto, CA.


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