In general people are lazy. Effort takes work, and people don’t like to work, so typically, people only take effort when they have no other option. Interestingly, this is not just with regards to physical labor, but extends to mental gymnastics as well. Meaning that people won’t typically think about more than they need to. This impacts us in numerous ways:
This is why sales people ask “When is a good time to meet?” instead of “Would you like to meet?” People respond positively to the former, but upon reflection might reject you in the latter.
Similarly, if we want something, it is better to state something as a confirmation of a request, rather than ask a question. Such as, “I assume you are going to clean the carpet for free, since you stepped on it with your muddy boots when you came to fix my AC, correct?”
However, one of the most important ways that this impacts us on a daily basis, is that people only answer the question posed.
Since I am in sales, it is always amazing to me how much more impactful asking the person on the other end of the line a specific question like “Who have you talked to recently that told you they had staffing needs?” is than the question of “What needs do you currently have?” For some reason, the more specific and probing that my question is, the more the individual works to recall and answer and give me what I am looking for. An opportunity.
The upshot of this, is that if we ask the wrong question, we get the wrong answer, even though the person we are talking to might have the information that we need. We just didn’t know how to access the information effectively.
By remembering that people only answer what they hear you ask, you can better shape your question to include a more broad scope, or remember to develop follow-on questions when their answer is not effective, and not just take their first answer as gospel.