How to Entice People to Answer Your Personal Questions

You may have witnessed your pride encourage you to divulge sensitive information in the past. As you found yourself in the process of vocalizing a truth you shouldn’t have said, you’d have realized it to be too late to reel in what you’ve already exposed.

In such a situation, your pride would have been triggered to protect itself. It would have felt threatened by the possibility of being perceived as weak and would have motivated you to reinstate its image of strength.

Those instances are valuable to learn from.  While on the journey to understand just how effective of a driver of action pride is, you’ll begin learning that you can trigger it to your advantage.

This article is about triggering the pride of those to whom you ask personal questions in an effort to entice them to answer.

The goal of triggering people’s pride while asking them questions would be to increase your chances of getting an answer. While serving to protect and uphold their pride, people seem to be likelier to answer sensitive / personal questions.  

Pairing Questions With Unfavorable Assumptions

An effective way to elicit someone’s pride when asking questions seems to attach unfavorable assumptions to what you think the answer may be. 

In framing a potential answer unfavorably off the bat, the receiver of your questions will feel an urge to correct your unfavorable assumption in the form of the correct answer.

For example, consider yourself being asked the following two questions:

  1.       How much tax did you pay last fiscal?
  2.       Did Uncle Sam also make you pay 24% in income taxes last year?

The first question above is personal in nature. Depending on the country in which you live, exposing what tax rate you paid may unveil the salary you earn. 

The generality of the first question above doesn’t do well to hide its very personal nature. There would be nothing to distract the listener from the fact that the question is a bit too personal in nature, and that their answer may be used maliciously against them.

The second question above is more specific. It introduces a discrete percentage value to the subject of tax rates. By setting down the flag at 24%, the person asking that question would have done well to elicit a response. 

The second question above would encourage the listener to either correct the assumption of them paying 24% or confirm that they paid that amount this year. 

If attempting to exaggerate the unfavorable assumption in the question above even further, the interviewee would raise the mark from 24% to something higher

The “loss” in the context of talking about taxes, would be paying more taxes than others. 

Assuming that someone paid more than the average tax rate is an unfavorable assumption from their perspective. They will be encouraged to correct that assumption in part, to ensure that word doesn’t spread of their “loss.” 

The discrete percentage value in the question above thereby, can be adjusted to elicit responses at an increased rate.

Understanding How Unfavorable Assumptions Work

In the effort to increase the rate at which your listener answers your questions, you’d need to know which answers would be painful for them to give.

In the tax rate example above, the generally unfavorable answer to give would be to exclaim that we paid more taxes than the rest. We’d be seen as losers in that domain, as we would have lost out to others In terms of giving less of our income away to the public.

By you incorrectly making an unfavorable assumption, those who answer your questions will be placed in a predicament. 

Though you may have asked a personal question which they don’t want to answer, they also wouldn’t want you to assume that the answer to that question is worse than it actually is.

Perhaps they only paid 19% in taxes that year, and your assumption that they paid 24% would make them out to seem like a loser in that scenario.

Unfavorable assumptions are thereby hints that you assume the answers to the questions you give to be hurtful to the individual’s pride.  

Below, are examples of unfavorable assumptions infused into questions. In brackets next to each respective example, is the question as it would be asked without infusing any negative assumptions into it.

  •         Did you fail the exam? (How’d you do on the exam?)
  •         Were you late for the morning meeting today? (What time did you come in today?)
  •         How did you celebrate your 40th birthday? (How old are you?)
  •         The prices for rent are pretty high in your area; did you get a good deal? (How much do you pay for rent?)
  •         Saw this barbeque online for $530; you spent some dough on it! (How much did you get your barbeque grill for?)
  •         What was that on the bar? 125lb? (How much do you squat?)
  •         Damn, houses are crazy expensive in that area. Did you get to negotiate the price down? (How much did you pay for your house?)

Pairing Questions With Favorable Assumptions

Unlike unfavorable assumptions, favorable assumptions don’t challenge your recipient’s pride. 

Instead of putting someone back on their heels, infusing favorable assumptions into a question entices people to confirm, rather than reject, your assumptions.

Infusing favorable assumptions into your question is a method which works well when those you speak with are proud of the truth. Favorable assumptions thereby work to entice personal truths – which those you speak to are proud of – to come out. 

Though they’d be proud of the truth in normal conditions, its sensitive nature would discourage these individuals from publicizing that truth. Favorable assumptions thereby help push people over the edge of communicating sensitive truths which shine positively on their pride.

Examples of such sensitive, but prideful, truths can be making it into med school, getting a scholarship, getting good deals on purchases, getting a raise at work, and having a successful job interview with a prospective employer.

Below are the same questions as the ones used in the example above. However, this time, favorable assumptions have been infused into them.

  •         Did you kill that exam? (How’d you do on the exam?)
  •         Did you come in early for the morning meeting today? (What time did you come in today?)
  •         You’re turning 27 (younger than they look) this year right? (How old are you?)
  •         I heard people get good deals on rent in this area. Are you happy with your price? (How much do you pay for rent?)
  •         Did you get this barbecue on sale? (How much did you get your barbecue grill for?)
  •         What was that on the bar? 325lb? (How much do you squat?)
  •         You probably put those honed negotiation skills to work when getting your house, didn’t you? (How much did you pay for your house?)

Knowing When to Use Favorable vs. Unfavorable Assumptions in Your Questions

Remember; infuse unfavorable assumptions into your question when you think the person you’re speaking with isn’t necessarily proud of the answer to your question. The unfavorable assumption would undercut their already unimpressive truth.

Though their truth would be sensitive and unimpressive, they’d be motivated to protect against your assumption of truth being worse than it actually is. Unfavorable assumptions are best used when the nature of the question contains hints of embarrassment. (E.g. How many times did you wet your bed as a kid? Every night?)

Use favorable assumptions to give people the chance to confirm sensitive truths which they’re secretly proud of. Assuming a favorable answer to come from the questions you ask others is akin to taking their hand and encouraging them to take the first step in exposing their prideful truths. Favorable assumptions are warm invitations for people to answer your questions.

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Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims in any way.