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Tell or ask: How to get people to consider change

Tell or ask: How to get people to consider change

Ever try to convince someone to make a change? Efforts so often meet resistance. Leaders will motivate employees to take on a new responsibility. Parents and family members may nag or lecture each other to change a behavior. Friends may strike emotional connections to influence behaviors. And, of course, let us not forget one tactic that all have experienced: guilt.

No one really likes change, but is it true that most everyone resists it? Or, do they simply resist being told to change?

Ask vs. tell

The Ask vs. Tell approach addresses resistance without demand. The method uses questions to influence a change in thinking. People like to talk about themselves. People also want to help others. The BS Guys prove this theory in their recent experiment on changing those who don’t want to change. The goal of the experiment was to provide educational materials to smokers and encourage them to quit smoking. When using influential questions, 90% more smokers committed to trying to quit. Why? Because information was not being forced upon them. Emotional cords were struck when the kids asked questions.

Make it work for you

Asking questions creates that degree of interest in the person you are addressing. Their answers will tells you what they feel is important. You will hear their perspective. You will have control of the conversation. You may even find that their own answers may be the convincing factor to make that needed change, as we saw with the smokers.

Our Alcohol Prevention Project follows this same model. Our goal is to educate youth on the risks of alcohol use and empower them to resist the pressure to drink. The key is to get them to start talking and support good choices among their peers.

Some questions to ask:

  • Why would you consider … trying a drink?
  • What raises curiosity about … drinking?
  • Why is this important to you?
  • Do you know the consequences of … underage drinking?

Influencing change is a slow and often arduous process. Keep asking the right questions that cause them to reflect. One day they will finally ask themselves “why do I do this?”

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