Chapter 7 COLUMBO STEP 3 Using Questions to Make a Point
Summary:With a target in mind, we can ask questions which will help both parties understand the issues at stake and realize the truth about our own beliefs.
“In the third step of our game plan, you are going to use questions to make a point. Think of yourself like an archer shooting at a target. Your questions are your arrows. The point you want to make is the target you want to hit. The target is key. If you’re going to use questions to make a point, then you must be clear in your mind on what point you want to make.” (Location: 1,431)
“In each of these situations, every time you ask a question and get a favorable response, your question accomplishes two things that a mere statement cannot. First, the person is telling you he understands the point. Second, he’s telling you he agrees with it, at least provisionally, and is taking a step forward with you in the thinking process.” (Location: 1,438)
Note:Getting agreement along the way will help us deal with the real issue (the target at which we are aiming). Thinking far enough ahead to ask the right questions is hard though!
“There are different ways this third use of Columbo works out in application. Generally, your leading questions will be used to inform, persuade, refute, or set up the terms of the discussion.” (Location: 1,447)
Here they are:
– TELL THEM SOMETHING THEY ALREADY KNOW
– TURNING THE TABLES
– EXPLOITING A WEAKNESS OR A FLAW
– PUTTING THE PIECES ON THE TABLE
– FINDING THE FLAW
“If you are placed in a situation in which you suspect your convictions will be labeled intolerant, bigoted, narrow-minded, or judgmental, use Columbo to turn the tables.” (Location: 1,488)
“You know, this is actually a very personal question you’re asking. I don’t mind answering, but before I do, I want to know if it’s safe to offer my views. So let me ask you a question first: do you consider yourself a tolerant person or an intolerant person on issues like this? Is it safe to give my opinion, or are you going to judge me for my point of view? Do you respect diverse points of view, or do you condemn others for having convictions that differ from your own?” (Location: 1,492)
Note:I absolutely love this preface to a response. I need to use this more often because it helps both of us be honest.
“Can you tell me what you mean by that? Why would you think I’m an intolerant person?”
“Because it’s clear you think you’re right and everyone who disagrees with you is wrong. That’s intolerant.”
“Well, you’re right, I do think my views are correct. Of course, it’s always possible I’m mistaken, and we could talk about that if you like. But what about you? You seem to be disagreeing with me. Do you think your views are right?”2
“Yes, of course I think I’m right. But I’m not intolerant like you.”
“That’s the part that confuses me. Why is it when I think I’m right, I’m intolerant, but when you think you’re right, you’re just right? What am I missing here?”
Note:The intolerance of “tolerance” on display.
“The quickest way to deal with a personal attack is to simply point it out with a question. When someone goes after you rather than your argument, ask, “I’m a little confused at your response. Why did you change the subject? Even if you’re right about my character, could you explain to me what that has to do with this issue?”” (Location: 1,531)
“Since science only measures natural causes and effects, it’s not capable of ruling out supernatural causes, even in principle.” (Location: 1,582)
Note:As he will state later, you cannot prove that invisible men do not exist merely because you haven’t seen any. This is different than the Burden of Proof fallacy. That fallacy is when I say, “Invisible men do exist! You can’t prove they don’t exist, so they must!” Putting science in its rightful place is not the same. We are merely saying that science cannot measure what it cannot observe. The supernatural is, by definition, beyond nature and therefore not able to be measure within it. We need other tools in order to do that.
“PUTTING THE PIECES ON THE TABLE”
Note:The story that follows is a good example of asking questions instead of making assertions.
“Remember, an argument is like a house whose roof is supported by walls. In this step of Columbo, you want to find out whether the walls (the reasons or evidence) are strong enough to hold up the roof (the person’s point of view). Look, observe, reflect. Maybe your friend’s comments have tipped you off to some problem with his view. Is there a misstep, a non sequitur,14 a fallacy, or a failing of some sort? Can you challenge any underlying assumptions that might be faulty? Whatever flaw you discover, be sure to address the problem with a question, not a statement.” (Location: 1,659)
Note:This, for me, needs time. I need to listen, think, and then much later respond.
“We may spend hours helping someone carefully work through an issue without ever mentioning God, Jesus, or the Bible. This does not mean we aren’t advancing the kingdom. It is always a step in the right direction when we help others to think more carefully. If nothing else, it gives them tools to assess the bigger questions that eventually come up.” (Location: 1,679)
Note:This is loving our neighbor.
“One of the reasons this approach is so attractive is that it shows respect for the person you disagree with. First, you make an effort (with your first two Columbo questions) to understand her viewpoint. Next, you ask, “Do you mind if I ask a couple of questions about what you’ve told me?” or, “Would you consider an alternative or be willing to look at another angle if there were good reasons for it?” By soliciting permission to disagree, you make the encounter more amicable. You also stay in the driver’s seat.” (Location: 1,719)