Here at Grace we often talk about the value of questions for promoting substantial dialogue. It is very easy in interactions with others to assume we must drive the conversation, and sometimes we talk at people rather than drawing them out. This week and the next we want to give you some questions that you’ll find helpful as you make disciples. Adapt them for your purposes and really listen to the answers people give.
The first set of questions comes from Greg Koukl, author of Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions. While Koukl discusses these questions in the context of dialogue with skeptics, they apply well to all sorts of encounters. Koukl generally classifies these questions under what he calls the “Columbo Tactic,” named for the apparently bumbling detective who nabbed criminals with disarming and simple questions.
Here they are, in order:
- “What do you mean by that?” This clarifying question draws out people’s definitions and requires them to move beyond unchallenged assertions.
- “How did you come to that conclusion?” This question draws out rationale and exposes faulty or unfounded logical links.
- The third question is situation-specific and intended to show inconsistencies in the other person’s viewpoint. Koukl provides an example in a Breakpoint commentary for a dialogue in which a person has asserted a belief in “marriage equality”: “Okay, should children be allowed to marry adults?” The obvious answer, “No,” directs the discussion back to the essence of the issue: the definition of marriage.
Give the Columbo tactic a try and see how it helps you advance dialogue, and then leave us a comment to let us know how it went!
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