The Columbo Tactic

You can direct conversations in a non-offensive way by using these three carefully selected questions:

To learn more about what the person believes, ask: What do you mean by that?

  • It clarifies the claims the person is making.
  • It elicits what the person thinks.
  • It provides a good conversation starter.
  • To make them defend their own views ask: How did you come to that conclusion?
  • It clarifies the reasons for the person's ideas.
  • It tells how the person thinks.
  • It makes him bear the "burden of proof" for his own claims.
  • To uncover a flaw, begin your question with: Can you clear this up for me?
  • Use this when reasons don't properly support the person's claim.
  • It challenges a weakness or contradiction in their view.
  • It uncovers a flaw with a question rather than a statement, and encourages them to think through what they believe.
  • Also use the Columbo tactic to get out of the "hot seat."
  • Shift from an argument to a fact-finding mode in the conversation.
  • Take the pressure off by using the first two Columbo questions.
  • Close with "Let me think about that" and then research the issue before continuing the conversation.

Remember, there's no need for home runs each time you engage someone in conversation. You can be effective and respectful by learning more about the other person's views without being argumentative by asking a few simple questions.

This is the kind of skill I?ll be teaching at our free seminar on Saturday, September 10. Join me to learn more tactics that will make you more effective and therefore more confident in conversation that engage the other person with gentleness and reverence.

8 a.m. ? 2 p.m. at Rolling Hills Covenant Church, 2222 Palos Verdes Drive North, Rolling Hills Estates ? main sanctuary (light snack available for purchase)

blog post |
Melinda Penner

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