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Smarter change

Better questions: get them to tell you what they don’t want to

Here’s a great way to get people to tell you what they don’t want to.

Adam Grant’s reference-checking questions for recruitment (the link has disappeared, sorry).

give them forced choices between two undesirable qualities… I’m curious about whether this candidate is more likely to be… Too assertive or not assertive enough? … Overly detail-oriented or not detail-oriented enough?…

Chances are if you’re trying to work out what a client or stakeholder really wants, then this binary choice idea can work for you:

  • is this about retention or sales?
  • is this something you think is a great idea or something your boss thinks is a great idea?
  • is this a long-term or short-term priority?

Here’s another one: label what you hear or see, and they will give you more information.

By the by, here’s four steps to gaining the upper hand in negotiation: specifically go to step three and pay attention to calibrated questions.

And then to sweeten the mix, try HBR’s article on asking great questions. Great ideas in there around follow up questions, that you get better at asking questions by asking questions, that open ended questions have their place, when to ask tough questions (up front is best), and how to stop people feeling interrogated.

And here are 5 questions to help you work a room.

Let me know how you use this!

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