28. Jan, 2022

What Is Socratic Questioning?

When exploring Public Victory last week, we referred to Socratic questioning as part of your self-assessment of Do You Seek 1st To Understand Then to Be Understood? meaning do you sincerely listen to others to truly understand their point of view.

Seeking 1st to Understand is one of the most neglected habits of the western world. People rarely want to listen to and discuss the evidence of a situation. Instead, they argue from the perspective of their own attitudes, beliefs, and opinions viz. feelings.

Think about this generalization for a moment. If political elections, industrial discords, or family points of view were argued (see below for definitions) solely on the things that can be measured (the evidence), surely the outcomes would be to more people’s advantage. And, if someone could discover and agree with those facts for themselves, why would they argue?

Let us examine two definitions of argument, one positive and one negative and you’ll see what I mean. You choose, which would be the better posture for someone to adopt with you:

  • 1st definition: argue meaning to encourage someone to discover and agree for themselves their own circumstances and that they want to do something to change it
  • 2nd definition: argue meaning to exchange or express diverging or opposing points of views

Quick Resume - Socrates (c.470-399BC) was a Greek scholar, teacher, and philosopher who some consider the precursor of stoicism. Credited as a founder of Western philosophy, he is largely known through posthumous accounts by his students Plato and Xenophon. Later the school of Stoics, a Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in the early 3rd century BC, established stoicism as the philosophy of emotional wellbeing (eudemonic).

Socratic Questioning - involves a disciplined and thoughtful dialogue between two or more people and is widely used in teaching and counseling to allow an individual to expose and unravel deeply held values and beliefs that frame and support what they think and speak. In short, Socratic question encourages the other person to challenge their own understanding of the world, the universe, and everything. In this manner, a favourable argument is satisfied, and an antagonistic argument is avoided (see above).

Example of Favourable (Socratic) & Antagonistic Questioning:

Favourable (Socratic)                        Antagonistic

What is your attitude toward …?           Why do you think that?

Do you have any …?                             What do you have?

Why did you …?                                    Should you have …?

What do you mean by …?                     I don’t understand what you mean?

What would be the outcome of …?       Surely you wouldn’t want that to happen?

Is that what you want?                          You can’t be serious?

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Complicated IS Easy! Simple IS Hard!