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The Power of Questions


Techniques > Questioning > The Power of Questions

Control | Information | Listening | Persuading | See also


Questions give you a lot of power in any conversation. Here's just some of the great benefits you can gain from using questions.


First of all questions give you power. They put you in charge of the conversation. When you ask a question, there is a strong social pressure for the other person to answer the question. As long as you keep asking questions, you are in charge of the conversation.

Politicians know this and counter questions from interviewers by ignoring them and saying whatever they like ("That's a really interesting question and the real point is..."). It is a power play to ignore the questions of others as you effectively say "I do not have to follow social rules with you as I am so much more important."


Information is power and what you get from questions is information. Particularly if you are careful with your questions you can discover all kinds of useful information that can help you achieve your goals.

Gathering information is much like doing a jigsaw puzzle. You get bits of information and put them together to build the bigger picture. Probing questions are particularly useful for digging out the information you need.


Questions also good when you want to listen more than talk, as you can prompt the other person to talk about subjects where you can listen more.

Open questions are particularly useful here, as a short question leads to a longer question. Active listening also helps -- nodding and saying things like 'mmm' encourages the other person to keep talking.


Questions that reveal personal details about the other person and things about which they are interested also gives you the opportunity of getting closer to to them, for example by subsequently showing how you are similar to them.

Just asking questions and paying attention to their answers shows you are interested in them and prompts an exchange where they will then become interested in you.


As well as the above benefits, questioning can be used to persuade in many other ways, for example by using rhetorical questions that need no answers but cause the person to consider what you are saying. Likewise, Socratic questioning is designed to make the other person think rather than elicit information for you.

Less subtly, loaded and leading questions push the other person into agreeing or thinking about particular things. Tag questions can also be added to statements to nudge agreement.

See also

Power, Listening

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