Want to Lead? Learn to Ask the Right Questions

Management expert Daniel Pink on how to influence others by asking the right questions.

Have you ever walked away from a sales meeting wondering what you could have said differently to a potential client? Or do you feel as though you’re only wasting your breath trying to convince your employees to believe in a new initiative or direction? Are you tired of telling your children to clean up their rooms? Convincing others can’t come from you—it has to come from them. How does this happen? Learn to ask the right questions.


Daniel Pink is a management expert and the author of five bestselling business books, including Drive. He stopped by Big Think's studio to talk about his latest book To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others.

“The key here is that we tend to think that persuasion or motivation is something that one person does to another,” says Pink. “What the social science tells us very clearly is that it’s really something that people do for themselves. And your job as a persuader, as a motivator, is to reset the context and surface people’s own reasons for doing something. Because it works a lot better.”

How does one do that? Pink gives the following hypothetical example: If your child’s room is a pigsty, ask him two questions that will get to the bottom of how to change his behavior. The first question: “From 1 to 10, how ready are you to clean your room?” If the answer is low, like a 2, then ask the counter-intuitive follow-up question:“Why a 2? Why not a 1?” The child will then start to articulate his own reasons for why he's not that messy, essentially giving reasons for doing something. But if the answer is indeed a 1, then there may be external factors that the child needs help with.

“When people have their own reasons for doing something – not yours,” Pink says, “they believe those reasons more deeply and adhere to the behavior more strongly.”

For more on Pink’s insights into how to motivate others into action, watch the clip from Big Think’s interview:

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

This is the best (and simplest) world map of religions

Both panoramic and detailed, this infographic manages to show both the size and distribution of world religions.

(c) CLO / Carrie Osgood
Strange Maps
  • At a glance, this map shows both the size and distribution of world religions.
  • See how religions mix at both national and regional level.
  • There's one country in the Americas without a Christian majority – which?
Keep reading Show less

Top vets urge dog lovers to stop buying pugs and bulldogs

Pugs and bulldogs are incredibly trendy, but experts have massive animal welfare concerns about these genetically manipulated breeds. 

'No nose, no thermoregulation, no health, no welfare.' Photo by terriermandotcom.blogspot.com
popular

Pugs, Frenchies, boxers, shih-tzus and other flat-faced dog breeds have been trending for at least the last decade, thanks to higher visibility (usually in a celebrity's handbag), an increase in city living (smaller dogs for smaller homes), and possibly even the fine acting of Frank the Pug in 1997's Men in Black. We're not ruling it out. These small, specialty pure breeds are seen as the pinnacle of cuteness – they have friendly personalities, endearing odd looks, and are perfect for Stranger Things video montages.

Keep reading Show less
Image source: Topical Press Agency / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Though we know today that his policies eventually ended the Great Depression, FDR's election was seen as disastrous by some.
  • A group of wealthy bankers decided to take things into their own hands; they plotted a coup against FDR, hoping to install a fascist dictator in its stead.
  • Ultimately, the coup was brought to light by General Smedley Butler and squashed before it could get off the ground.
Keep reading Show less