Ask-Don't-TellWhen it comes to behavior change, did you know that asking questions could be more influential than making statements? Posing questions in a way that invites a “Yes” or “No” response can more effectively encourage the desired behavior than a declarative statement.  Asking another person about carrying out a particular behavior could influence whether they do so and the impact could last up to six months!

The results of a 40-year research study conducted by several universities, including the University of California-Irvine, found that asking is more powerful than telling.  They suggest the principle – asking a question to which the response is “Yes” or “No” – applies to interactions with others and with self.

In the Journal of Consumer Psychology,  the researchers said asking about the performance of a behavior in the future changed the likelihood of its occurrence, in favor of the mentioned behavior.  The example used in the article is the question; “Will you recycle in the future?” They discovered that asking led subjects to be more likely to recycle when the opportunity presented itself.  Questions, say the researchers, can actually motivate people to behave in a specific way, especially when the question requires a “Yes” or “No” response.

What questions do you need to ask of the people you lead, work with and live with?  How might questions help you influence behavior in a positive, desirable direction, without preaching, pushing or prodding?

You can also use questions to change your own behaviors – including boosting the power of your New Year’s Resolutions.  Don’t declare, “I will…” Instead, ask yourself, “Will I … [fill in the desired behavior – exercise more regularly, save more, go for that promotion, improve my relationships.]”

Good questions can be a powerful stimulus for lasting behavior change.

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