Dale Carnegie’s Third Principle, which we shared last time, is to talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.

Principle Four is simply (but importantly) to:

Ask Questions Instead of Giving Direct Orders

This is perhaps one of the simplest of the Nine because all one need remember is to add a word or two at the beginning of a sentence and end the sentence with a question mark instead of a period (or worse, an exclamation point)!

For example:

Call Mary Smith for me.
Can you please call Mary Smith for me?


Get those records now.
When do you think you’ll be able to get those records?

While simple, its impact on effective communication is powerful indeed.

As, by definition, communication requires a minimum of two parties, let’s consider the effect this shift has on each:

Clearly, the person being spoken to is likely to feel more respected and in control when asked instead of told to do something.  Notwithstanding (or perhaps especially when) the person doing the asking is in a position of authority, there is no need to drive that reality home by making demands instead of asking questions.  I realize this is an obvious point.  It nonetheless is worth sharing because in our busy work lives we sometimes feels justified ‘abbreviating’ our communications by dispensing with what we feel are superfluous words and sentiments (I plead guilty to this myself).  This usually amounts to being ‘word wise and relationship foolish.’

Less obvious is the important impact this shift in communication has on the person asking the question.

Remembering to ask instead of tell has the effect of altering the ‘internal conversation’ leading to a softer approach that is perceived by others, and leads to increased compliance with ones wishes (which, after all, is the whole point).

Stay tuned for Principle Five:

Let the other person save face

by Danny Bobrow

Call 800-760-2419