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The Question That Changes Everything

Has this ever happened to you?
You're talking with a co-worker about helping you with a project. We'll call this person "Nick." In a reluctant, discouraged tone he says, "I just don't think I can do it."

What's your instinctive response?
You know deep down that Nick can do this and that doing it will be beneficial for him. So to convince him, you're likely to say, "Yes, you can."
To you, this may seem like encouragement because you're expressing your belief in his ability to do it.
But according to persuasion and communication expert Dave Frees, this classic response will sound like a challenge to Nick, causing him to start thinking of all the reasons he's right and you're wrong. You've set the stage for an argument.
There's a better approach that works almost like magic. It involves two things-a statement of agreement, followed by a thought-provoking question.
First, you say: "I know you feel like you can't..."  Then pause, lean in closer, and add - "...yet."
Your statement will make him feel you agree with him, while the word "yet" suggests that he'll be capable at some point.
And what's really interesting is what's going on in Nick's brain. You see, he can't think about what you've just said without imagining himself doing it. So Nick is more engaged and is genuinely curious about what you're going to say next.
Then you ask a simple question that changes everything: "What would happen if you did?"

To think about that question, Nick has to visualize himself doing it.
So instead of the communication shutting down, two very important things will happen in Nick's mind:

1. He'll experience the feeling that he may be able to do the project.

2. He'll actually picture himself doing it.
The dialogue can now move forward, exploring what he feels he needs in order to be successful with the project.
And by the way, if you have children of any age, this is a powerful technique to use with them, too.

So here's the Speed Tip for this issue.
Start using the agreement statement and visualization question whenever you're talking to someone who's discouraged or doubting their abilities.
Something amazing happens when you shift from arguing to agreeing.
For more tips from Dave Frees, visit:


Copyright © 2009 Meredith M. Bell
Meredith Bell is "Your Voice of Encouragement" and president of Performance Support Systems. Millions of participants worldwide have used 20/20 Insight, an onsite survey and development system that helps people become stronger for life and work. More free articles and videos at or