Why Challenging Someone’s Knowledge Is Effective in Gathering Information

Witnessing someone attain results you only wish you could, gives rise to a myriad of emotions.

Our neighbor’s garden may be more impressive than ours, and our friend’s fashion sense can highlight just how stylishly out of touch we are.

There is other knowledge which is more necessary to protect from a competitive standpoint; even for the simple fact that you work hard to gain specific knowledge about the world around you. Giving up what you’ve worked hard for merely because someone asks is a difficult request to abide by.

The people you innocently yearn to gain knowledge from may perceive you to not be working as hard as they did to attain it. Others will simply not want to divulge things which give them a competitive advantage in the domain where the knowledge you seek exists.

Your neighbor may want to maintain their spot as the neighborhood’s best gardener, and your friend may not want to share the social status they garner for being stylish with you.

This article is about the concept of challenging someone in their knowledge as a means of attaining that knowledge.

Below, are three subsections of the general concept of challenging someone in their knowledge in an effort to motivate their divulgence of it.


Asking for Help

Though being asked for help is interpreted as a request of an altruistic scope on the surface, we forget how much of a role pride plays in our decision to help out another individual.

Executing on someone’s plea may make us feel altruistic and helpful. Rightfully rejecting it due to a limitation on our end may make us feel pity and sympathy for the ones who ask us help. However, being unable to help someone when we deem ourselves to be capable and willing of doing so is a vicious blow to the ego.

Imagine your crush asking for help of any sort. Your inability to perform in the face of their help request would be a painful and embarrassing experience. You’d label yourself as not skilled or capable enough in the domain within which they asked for help. You’d come up short in relation to their expectations, and will be made to feel as though you’re not good enough for them to depend on you for a hand.

The fear of coming up short in the face of a help request is one which taps deep into our pride. A help request is a difficult request to make for the person making it. They’d label themselves as needing the help of another individual, thereby implying they simply can’t do something by themselves. It is their vulnerable position which challenges us, as the helper, to perform in the face of their vulnerability for the sake of some sort of universal altruistic code.

The aversion for any helper to come up short in the face of a vulnerable individual asking for their help does well to encourage an exfoliation of what that helper knows. People are likely to dig deep into their bag of tricks in an attempt to not come up short whilst under pressure of your help request.

Requesting someone you deem to have important information for help in the domain in which they possess that information is often effective at gaining the insight you seek. You’ll put them under pressure to perform for the sake of not leaving a vulnerable person hanging in the wind. That pressure would make them likelier to show you what they know than to reject your plea for help.


Asking for a Guess

Do you think this webpage will get many clicks? 

Depending on who you are, your answer to the question above will fall somewhere within the spectrum of being an expert vs. being uninformed. If someone with a background in search engine optimization were to take a guess as to whether this page will perform favorably on search engines, that guess would be more accurate than that of a carpenter reading these same words.

A call for guesses is a fun way to challenge someone’s knowledge in a specific field. Guesses tell you a lot about a person. You can find out whether they have an optimistic or pessimistic outlook, and whether they are educated in the domain the request for a guess sets out a challenge in.

Requesting innocent guesses rids an individual of the responsibility to get things right. Guesses introduce an entertaining aura, as the risks are low, and the social reward is relatively high for getting something close to right. The desire to make a well placed guess thereby tugs on the information stores the guesser possesses.

We don’t perceive others to be benefiting from asking us to make an innocent guess about something which we’re well versed in. A direct question on exactly the same subject matter puts astute recipients on the defensive. Direct inquiries signify an investment being made on the part of the person making that direct inquiry. A call for guesses however, makes a request for information seem less important to the individual who makes it.


Challenging Their Identity

The things you spend a chunk of your time on are difficult to disassociate from your identity.

The individual who’s worked as a taxi driver for 30 years will be rigid in their perception of their role in the world around them. The thing that makes disassociating our identity from our work difficult is the effect that our work has on our interpretation of everything around us. As you attempt to disassociate who you are from what you do, you’ll have to reject the lessons you implemented from your role into your identity.

The taxi driver of 30 years would have learned a great deal about how to interact with individuals of all kinds in his role as a taxi driver for instance. If you were to go on to downplay his role as a taxi driver, the likelihood of him considering it an attack on his identity would be high. We take many positives from our roles and apply them to our identities. It’s what mingles the two together, and as time goes by, it becomes more difficult to untangle the two.

An effective way to garner information from an individual is to play into the fact that they’ve assumed a certain identity surrounding the area of their expertise. Reminding them of how much their role in life has played a part in forming their identity is the first step you should focus on doing.

Do so by citing their experience, their trained eye, and their general expertise prior to setting out a challenge for them to complete. The goal is to make someone give it their all in their response to your inquiry.

“You haven’t seen something like this in the 15 years you’ve worked as a mechanic?” is a good example of challenging someone’s identity in the effort of enticing them to focus on a problem you have with your car.

Your challenges of someone’s identity should come sparingly, and only when you’re sure that their skills / knowledge are in fact better than what they’re currently expressing to the world. Challenging someone who simply can’t perform up the challenge will result in backlash from them, as they’d feel bullied, not challenged.


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Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims. Please critically analyze all claims made and independently decide on its validity.