One of the key ideas I suggest people write down during my seminars is this: “The person who asks the question controls the conversation” or “The person who asks the question controls the situation.”
Let me demonstrate to you how this works. You walk into the store and the salesperson asks, “How are you today?”
Isn’t there a natural tendency to answer?
Here is another situation. A friend with whom you are talking suddenly asks you a question. Do you stop and answer the question or do you continue with your monologue? Chances are you stop and answer the friend’s question.
If you want to discipline a student or child, you control the situation by asking a reflective question. Never argue with a young person. Arguing with a young person is like arguing with a pig; you both get dirty, but the pig likes it.
The same principle holds true for influencing anyone; be the person who does the asking. Learning how to ask reflective questions is a skill anybody can learn and is one of the most effective approaches to influencing other people.
The other day when I walked onto an airplane and a tall, good-looking airline attendant asked, “How are you today?” I responded, “How would you like me to be?” He said, “Great!” And I said, “That’s how I am.”
When I walk into a store and the salesperson asks, “How are you today?” I respond with a question: “How are you?”
Again, the point to remember is that if you want to control the situation, be the person who asks the question.