When we’re stuck in conversational quicksand, the tendency is to repeat our main points with more vigour. But workplace coach Janet Miller, on her People Equation blog, notes “you can’t wear somebody down with the same argument that they’ve been consistently resisting over time. You need to try a different conversational approach.” She offers seven open-ended questions that invite discussion rather than entrench positions:
–What has to happen for you to feel comfortable considering what I’m asking for?
–What is it about my suggestion that seems unreasonable to you? How can we modify it to make it more palatable?
–In what areas do we agree?
–What is your main concern about [the topic] If we could successfully address that concern, how likely would you be to move forward with this?
–Here is where I see us sharing common positions [list them] Here is where I see our differences [list them] What can we do to bridge those differences?
–Let’s list the pros and cons of our respective viewpoints. What do we share in common?
–I’m not sure I understand what you mean. Would you please say that in a different way?