My (soon to be) three year old is starting to assert his independence. This morning there was a big row because I forgot to let him carry the Weetabix box to the breakfast table. Howls of outrage resulted. How did I get him to calm down? I asked him “how many Weetabix would you like?”.
The secret is in the very last character of that last sentence – the question mark.
It’s not just children who respond to the calming effect of being asked a question. I use the technique to deal with all sorts of situations and it is great for dealing with recalcitrant staff when implementing environmental strategies. A question is non-threatening, flatters your companion, and engages them in conversation.
Look at these pairs to see how the question version is more persuasive than the declaration:
“We must go green! Everyone is doing it!” vs “How are we going to compete against green rivals?”
“We must cut waste!” vs “How can we cut our energy, waste and water bills? Any ideas?”
“Pollution incidents must be eradicated!” vs “What are the implications of a pollution incident?”
It works, doesn’t it?