It’s hard to ask difficult questions without coming across as rude or obnoxious. And often when you do find a way to ask things, you might not get a straight answer.
For example, maybe you want to ask somebody why they aren’t immediately signing on the dotted line? Or why they aren’t offering you money for your incredible offer…
How do you ask them without coming across as rude, pushy and invasive?
And how do you find out what somebody really thinks when they don’t want to tell you?
This blog shares a simple-but-effective strategy for asking difficult questions that will encourage people to give you genuine answers. All without leaving a bad taste in their mouth.
Where You’re Going Wrong
We’ve all been there. You’ve finally got a meeting with somebody you’ve been wanting to talk to and you’ve stayed up late the night before, putting together a killer pitch. You’ve taken them out for coffee and poured your heart and soul into something you’re sure will bowl them over.
You come to the end and they say: “I’m going to need some more time to think about it.”
You say: “Sure. No problem. I won’t hassle you. Just let me know when you’ve thought about it and I’ll look forward to hearing from you.”
What just happened?
Well, you’ve just let that one get away.
What They Really Meant To Say
This is so frustrating when all you want to do is ask them “How could you possibly need more time to think about it?!” But you can’t say it just like that because it’s incredibly rude and obnoxious.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t ask them though.
You just have to think about how you’re going to ask the question in a way that isn’t rude and will get you the answers you’re looking for.
How To Ask The Question
When you demand an honest response from somebody, it can come across as offensive. They’ll immediately feel vulnerable and react by putting their guard up and shutting the conversation down
But if instead of demanding something from them, you can make it more about you and your vulnerability. This will help them to feel more open and able to explain themselves.
Here’s a simple way that you can frame any question to make it 100 times less obnoxious:
Start with these 4 words, “Just out of curiosity…”.
Why It Works
So you can ask the same question in a way that doesn’t demand anything but gently requests a response, for curiosity’s sake.
The other person now feels like nothing is riding on their answer other than the purpose to quench your curiosity. As though you’re in a position of vulnerability and they can help you with the answer they give.
The preface “Just out of curiosity…” explains to the other person that you’re confused. You don’t quite understand and they are the ones with the information to explain things more clearly.
So now you can ask: “Just out of curiosity, what is it specifically that you want to think about?”
And you’re much more likely to get an honest response. It could be along the lines of “I honestly don’t have the money to invest $200 right now.” which is probably not an issue that you can fix, but at least you know why that person isn’t investing.
Or it could be something like “I’m worried that I’ll lose my investment and how that will affect me later down the line”. For this, you can give solutions and help to alleviate the fears which could lead to the investment you wanted.
The Preface Always Helps
This same strategy can be used in other areas of life. With your children or your partner for example.
If your child does something they shouldn’t have and you ask them “What on earth were you thinking?!” They’re going to be defensive and will probably try to blame somebody or something else instead of giving you a genuine insight into their thought process.
If you ask them, “Just out of curiosity, what was it that made you think it was a good idea to put gum in your sister’s hair?”, they’re more likely to open up and explain themselves in a mature and honest way.
The preface can also help you in a leadership situation within a workplace. Maybe you want your team to step up in some way, take on new responsibilities, change their behavior, etc.
You can use the preface to soften the question so you can ask for example: “Just out of curiosity… What would it take for you to consider moving geographically to give you an elevated promotion?”
Put It Into Practise
As soon as you begin using the preface “Just out of curiosity…”, you’ll be amazed at how it changes the dynamic of your questions and therefore changes the responses that you will get.
You’ll finally be able to ask rude and direct questions without being rude and direct. And the open, honest feedback that you gain will help you to learn more than you ever could before when you were constantly trying to read between the lines and work out what people were truly thinking!
If you want to know more about how you can communicate with people to get the best results for them and for you, read The 3 Critical Ingredients To Communicate With Confidence And Influence Others.