ThE Gospel Project - chronological
- Read Acts Chapters 4 - 6
- Boundaries in Dating - Chapter 4
- Campus Survey Training
GETTING OUT OF THE “HOT SEAT”
There’s a further advantage of Columbo. I call it “getting out of the hot seat.” Sometimes we’re afraid we do not have enough information or are not quick enough on our feet to keep up with a fast talker in an intense discussion. The fear of getting in over our heads is enough to keep us from saying anything at all. We especially dread the possibility of being embarrassed by some aggressive critic blasting us with arguments, opinions, or information we are not equipped to handle.
In this circumstance, the tactical approach really shines. Columbo questions help you easily manage the conversation even when you sense you are overmatched. First, don’t feel under pressure to immediately answer every question asked or every point made, especially when someone else is coming on strong. Instead, practice a little conversational aikido. Let them keep coming at you, but use their aggressive energy to your advantage.
The minute you feel overmatched, buy yourself some time by shifting from persuasion mode to fact-finding mode. Don’t try to argue your own case yet. Instead, ask probing clarification questions and ask for reasons (your first two Columbo questions). Say something like this:
It sounds like you know a lot more about this than I do, and you have some interesting ideas. The problem is, this is all new information for me. I wonder if you could do me a favor. I really want to understand your points, but you need to slow down so I can get them right. Would you take a moment to carefully explain your view and also your reasons for it to help me understand better?
These questions show you are interested in taking the other person’s view seriously. They also buy you valuable time. Make sure you understand the ideas. Write them down if you need to. When all your questions have been answered, end the conversation by saying the magic words: “Let me think about it. Maybe we can talk more later.”
These words — Let me think about it —are like magic because once you say them, you free yourself from any obligation to respond further at the moment. All the pressure is gone because you have already pleaded ignorance. You have no obligation to answer, refute, or reply once you have admitted you are outgunned and need to give the issue more thought.
Think for a moment how useful this approach is. Instead of trying to resist the force of another’s attack, you step aside and let him have the floor. You invite him to make his case. However, he must do it slowly and clearly so you’ll have an opportunity to fully understand his point.
Next, on your own, at your leisure, when the pressure is off, do your homework. Research the issue —maybe even enlisting others in the process —and come back better prepared next time. You might even want to start a notebook. Open a computer file and record the question and its details from your notes. Then begin to craft a response based on your research.
Copyright © 2009 by Gregory Koukl