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Assertiveness Tip: Negative Inquiry

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Assertiveness Tip: Negative Inquiry

Assertiveness Tip: Negative Inquiry

Assertiveness technique: dig deeper

This is the final post in the Dr. Manuel Smith, When I Say No, I Feel Guilty series. Following are statements and paraphrases from the book to help guide you toward a more assertive and productive posture.

Negative Inquiry

Nondefensive negative inquiry responses that are noncritical prompt who you’re communicating with to examine their own structure of right and wrong. So instead of responding, “What makes you think going fishing is bad?,” sending the conversation downward. You can say, “I don’t understand. What is it about my going fishing that is bad?,” delivering the dialog to a more authentic, open place.

This technique is especially helpful in dealing with people you are close to because:

  1. It desensitizes you to criticism from people you care about so you can listen to what they tell you
  2. It extinguishes repetitive manipulative criticism from these people so it doesn’t drive you up the wall; and
  3. It reduces the use of right and wrong structure by these persons in dealing with you, prompting them to assertively say what they want giving both of actionable information.

Here’s an example:

“Paul: Beth, you don’t look good today.

Beth: What do you mean, Paul?

Paul: Well, I noticed the way you appear today. It doesn’t look too good.

Beth: Is it the way I look or is it the way I’m dressed? [NEGATIVE INQUIRY]

Paul: Well, that blouse doesn’t look too good.

Beth: What is it about the blouse that makes me look bad? [NEGATIVE INQUIRY response]

Paul: Well, it just doesn’t seem to fit.

Beth: Do you think it’s too loose? [NEGATIVE INQUIRY prompt]

What success story can you share where you or someone you know was rewarded for digging deeper by listening and asking questions instead of becoming defensive? What phrases have you found most useful in these situations?

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