Stage:2 The DISCOVERY Process (Socratic Questioning)
NOTE: Next week, we shall explore Stage: 3 ADVOCATE.
“I promise never to offer any solution to anyone’s problem until we have discovered and agreed that a problem exists, AND that s/he cares enough to want to do something about it”.
Elections, strikes, and conflicts are rarely based on hard facts, the things that can be measured, but on the soft facts, the attitudes, beliefs and opinions of the people involved.
Whilst always paying attention to the RELATIONSHIP (Primary Personality), the first part of all critical decision-making is to discover and agree the attitude, beliefs and opinions ~ soft facts ~ of the person you are with: the things they care about.
The Discovery process may be likened to every journey someone takes addressing the same two fundamental questions:
- Where Am I Right Now? the actual starting point, and
- Where Do I Want To Be? the desired destination
Let’s say you are attending a supper party, and someone you do not know well voices their opinion that those who desecrate monuments should receive the harshest prison sentencing. One natural response may be to argue there are more heinous crimes that warrant such punishment. All too often such opposing views lead to contention ~ watch political opponents at it ~ as well as a rather disappointing evening. Such negative outcomes are quite common in other circumstances of disagreement, too!
Using the Socratic process to address someone’s starting position (Q1), you ask, “What do you mean by the harshest prison sentencing?” This is a soft fact question. Then you sincerely listen.
Whatever their reply, you now ask something like, “Do you feel there are more serious crimes that must attract harsh sentencing?” Another soft fact question: listen intently once more.
Then, to encourage deeper thinking on their part you ask them to explain their last answer by saying, “What do you mean?” More soft fact questioning. More listening!
Socratic questioning avoids contention by allowing the speaker to reflect upon their own attitudes, beliefs and opinions. As they are encouraged to think-and-act for themselves, rather than simply react, they invariably soften, and may even amend their position. The process of Discovery has commenced.
In support of Q2 above, further questions follow the same theme and might include, “What would be a possible outcome of longer-term imprisonment for nonviolent offenders?” Soft fact. Sincere listening followed by, “Is that what you want?” This is a soft fact Agreement question that elicits what the other person wants!
A mutually beneficial outcome ~ trust ~ is being established when they tell you this is perhaps not what they want, and you then ask, “What do you want?”
Socratic questioning by the sincere enquirer enables the speaker to discover for themselves what is important to them and what they want to do about it. Such soft-fact questioning is highly effective in business, with colleagues, in families and on social occasions.
“I promise never to offer any solution to anyone’s problem until we have discovered and agreed that a problem
exists, AND that s/he cares enough to want to do something about it”.
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Complicated IS Easy! Simple IS Hard!