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From Chapter Five
"Power #4: Questions Put You In Control"

on how you can use questions to maintain control in difficult situations

Asking questions puts you on an equal basis with the other person. First, because questions demand answers; if you ask, people will answer. Second, questions get people to think - and if you ask the right question, to think in your direction. And third, questions give you information, and information is always a source of power. With all these powers behind you, questions can give you the control you need in any situation.

One of the exercises I do in my seminars illustrates this; it is called the "hot potato." These are the rules: Get a partner. Start a conversation by asking a question, any question. Your partner must give you a brief answer, then ask you a question. You give a short answer, then ask your partner a questions. For example a man asks, "How did you travel to this event?" and the woman answers, "I drove to the airport, took a plane, and then took a cab to the hotel." She takes control by changing the direction of the conversation and asks, "What are your three main objectives in attending this meeting?" The man responds, after some thought, that he hopes to meet some interesting people, do business, and get some good restaurants after the meeting. He then asks her how she likes her room. And she asks him what food he likes the most.

You'll notice that the person who asks the question controls the direction of the conversation. By asking the right questions, you can steer any conversation in the direction you want it to go.

One of the best examples of this is during a job interview. In a typical interview the employer asks you a question and you, as the job seeker, are supposed to answer it. The employer asks another question. You answer it, and so on. The interviewer has discovered some things about you, but what have you learned?

If as a job seeker, you came to me for counsel, I would tell you to break this routine and to ask some questions yourself. You have two objectives in a job interview: to find out if the job is right for you and to convince the employer that you are right for the job. Neither of these will be accomplished if you sit back and let the interviewer control the entire situation.

But most of the time, that is exactly what we do. We simply answer the questions we are asked, then we stop talking and wait for the interviewer to ask another question. That leaves the control totally in the interviewer's hands. You can take control by getting into the asking habit. Instead of waiting for the next question, you should be prepared with questions you want to ask the interviewer. Then when you have answered the interviewer's question, ask one of your own.

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