Monday, June 25, 2007

Ask; don't tell.

Sales calls.
Employee meetings.
Interviews with candidates.
Phone calls with the media.

Do you want to appear more approachable these type of situations?

Cool! Then, just remember three important words:

Ask; don’t tell.

Here’s why:

People don’t like to be told what to do.
People will remember something if they say it.
People will believe something if they say it.
People will learn something if they say it.

It brings to mind the words of Aristotle, who once said, “He who persuades me with my own words is the best.”

Ask; don’t tell.

Next, let’s explore the core differences between these two actions:


ASKING is curious.
TELLING is judgmental.

ASKING is generative language.
TELLING is retrospective language

ASKING is engaging.
TELLING is one-sided.


ASKING leads to goals.
TELLING leads to controls.

ASKING leads to listening.
TELLING leads to talking.

ASKING leads to dialogue.
TELLING leads to defensive responses.

ASKING leads to positive framing of a conversation.
TELLING leads to negative framing of a conversation.


ASKING shows that you trust others to develop their own answers.
TELLING shows that your answers are the only ones of importance.

ASKING uncovers information that helps you present your ideas in a highly customized manner.
TELLING overlooks information and assumes you already know what somebody needs.

OK. Let’s review:

You understand the value of asking, not telling.

You understand the difference between asking and telling.

Now it’s time to heighten the approachability of your language

Here are several examples of how to ASK instead of TELL:

1. DON’T SAY, “You should sit down and think about…”
DO ASK, “Have you ever thought about…?”

2. DON’T SAY, “I’m upset with you because…”
DO ASK, “Do you know why I’m upset with you?”

3. DON’T SAY, “You screwed up because…”
DO ASK, “Do you know where you went wrong?”

4. DON’T SAY, “Here’s why you need my product…”
DO ASK, “What are your biggest challenges with…?”

5. DON’T SAY, “Your viewers would love…”
DO ASK, “What are the major concerns of…?”

6. DON’T SAY, “I can’t believe you did that!”
DO ASK, “Is that what you were expecting to happen?”

7. DON’T SAY, “You should have been more successful!”
DO SAY, “What else would need to happen for you to accomplish your goal?”

Ask; don’t tell.

Do you ask more or tell more?

Think of the last time you had greater success asking, not telling. Share your story here!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag

Are you the luckiest person you know?

Watch Scott's interview on 20/20!

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