When Someone Rubs You The Wrong Way, Ask A Question – Persuasive Communication

by Dr. Rick Kirschner on September 16, 2009

rub I want you to succeed in becoming a more effective communicator.  To that end, I keep posting articles, three days a week, to empower you to do that.   But here’s the rub.  The question isn’t what I want for you.  The question is, what do you want for yourself?   Because if  you do want to be a better communicator, then you simply must develop your ability to switch into an information-gathering mode rather than a reactionary one.  This is particularly true when faced with one of life’s challenges, which appears in the form of other people.  And specifically, if what they’re doing rubs you the wrong way.

When you deal with other people in challenging circumstances, being able to ask the right questions may turn out to be worth far more than having all the right answers. A useful principle, something I’ll be writing about in more detail in an upcoming series of posts on masterminding,  is that “all of us are smarter than any of us.”  And in our relationships with others, the person asking the questions stands to gain the most influence and leverage for positive change by putting this greater intelligence to work.

Of course,  if you ask a question, that doesn’t mean that the answer you get actually answers the question you asked.  Perseverance furthers!  You change the wording, but just keep asking some version of your question until you get the answer.

The fact that not all answers to questions actually answer questions is really obvious in the electronic world, where there are no nonverbal cues and the emphasis is clearly on words.

Example:  I don’t care for polarizing behavior in others, and particularly in my social networking.  So when a guy on Twitter was pontificating about ‘true free markets,’  as a way of attacking President Obama (whom he believed didn’t believe in them), I asked him a simple question.  “Where is there a true free market?” He replied,  “A true free market happens when brand new inventions appear on the scene.”  He’s answered a ‘when’ question, but that’s not what I asked.  So I replied, “What would be an example of a true free market?” and he answered, “Anywhere that government doesn’t tax, regulate, dictate or micromanage.”  I still didn’t think he’d answered, (though I enjoyed his answer) because when I tried to find it on the map in my mind, I couldn’t locate ‘anywhere.’   So I wrote back, “Where in the real world is there such a market?”  He didn’t have an answer.  Still hasn’t got one.  That’s because his generalization, in the privacy of his own mind, didn’t require any specifics of him.  My questions did.  Best of all, he stopped the attacks (which I found annoying) without my ever having addressed him about them directly.

Remember that some people speak in sweeping generalizations.  It may take two, three or even four asks before you get an actual answer.  Take your time, persevere, and eventually you’ll arrive at the end of the generalization or the beginning of a meaningful communication.

Questions?   Your comments are welcome.

Be well,


Previous post:

Next post: