A few days ago, Chris Brogan posed an interesting question on twitter:
Then, the next day, another friend, Charlie Gilkey, asked:
Now, I get that these two very wise guys were asking these questions on two levels….
One, because they wanted to see how you’d answer. And, two, because they wanted to:
Incite those who saw the question to examine their assumptions.
And, probably, three, they wanted to see how many people would go that deep (at least, that’s what I’d really be curious about).
Thing is, within Chris’ and Charlie’s questions lie a bigger lesson.
It’s about the questions we ask ourselves every day. Because the WAY you frame the questions you ask yourself often determines not only what your perceived options are, but what your final answer will be. And, if you’re not too careful, your questions may lock you into false answers, actions and beliefs.
What does THAT mean?
Okay, let me don my rather rusty recovering lawyer‘s hat for a bit.
In the law, there’s a principle, actually its the basis of a courtroom objection, called “assuming facts not in evidence.” In regular-people-speak, that means phrasing a question in a way that assumes certain facts or circumstances that have not yet been introduced, proven and, in fact, may be entirely false.
In NLP, these are given yet another fancy name – presuppositions. And, certain practitioners intentionally load up questions and statements with presuppositions because they know it overloads a certain part of the brain (more on this in a future post) and drops you into a far more suggestable state.
The title of this post does that. As do Chris and Charlie’s questions.
So, when I asked:
“When did you stop sniffing glue,”
I assumed a bunch of facts that are likely (I hope) not true. Among those are:
- At some point in the past, you sniffed glue
- You’ve now stopped sniffing glue
Looking at Chris’ question –
Would you take obscurity and wealth over social engagement and struggling?
…the main assumed facts are:
- You know what obscurity, wealth, social engagement and struggling mean
- You can have obscurity and wealth OR social engagement and struggling, BUT not both
- You would choose either over some other unmentioned option
And, with Charlie’s question –
Would you rather have a page that converts at 10% but repels the rest or converts at 2% but keeps the funnel open?
The primary assumptions are:
- You know what a page that converts and a funnel are.
- You can have a page that converts at 10% but repels OR one that converts at 2% but keeps the funnel open BUT you cannot have both
- You have to choose either over some other unmentioned option.
Now, what happens if we test the assumptions underlying each of the three questions?
We find out most are somewhere between dead wrong kinda wrong. They assume facts aren’t true and present answer choices as if they were your ONLY choices when, in fact, there are myriad others. That makes the questions themselves loaded and largely unanswerable, as is.
When you drill down to the assumptions, it becomes pretty clear, pretty quickly…you’ve been set up.
That’s not a bad thing in the context of Chris’ and Charlie’s questions. Because part of their intent was to make you think. To make you question the question.
Problem is, in daily life, a whole lot of people never drill down and test the assumptions that underlie the questions they ask themselves every day.
They just accept the questions as is. And, in doing so, they never discover how they’re setting themselves up. How they’re limiting their answers to the ones framed by the questions. And, ending up somewhere between confused, boxed-in and paralyzed.
The classic career question that does this is:
Would you rather be rich but bored silly or poor but love your work?
The question assumes you can’t be rich AND love your work. And, if you don’t kick the question’s tires, you fall into the trap of assuming the two options presented are your only ones.
So, my question for you is…
Have you stopped asking questions that give you bad answers yet?
Maybe, it’s time to kick the tires…
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