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Framing Questions - Lesson Learned

Have you ever felt funny asking people for information? Have you ever thought, it might be challenging to make a request for something you weren't sure people would be on board with? I found myself in this predicament when I decided to gather hand writing samples from my fellow employees. For the original project and post, click here. I think because I am generally nice and respectful, it wasn't hard to get people to play along with my request, but I got to thinking after it was all done, "What if I had to approach strangers with this same request? Would I have been successful? What could I have done better to frame my request in a way that was both succinct and persuasive? I wanted to share an important lesson I learned about framing questions with you. Maybe it might be something that you use in your daily life to get better participation with your requests. Let me share it.

It Matters How You Frame Questions

When was the last time you asked someone to do something for you? How did you start the conversation? Chances are you had what you wanted in mind when you asked the question. But, depending on how well you framed the question, you may have had some hesitancy or awkwardness in the exchange. To illustrate, imagine for a moment that you have a flat tire and you need help fixing it. You walk up to someone you know and ask the following question, "Can you follow me outside?" Imagine the look on their face. Are they confused? Do they hesitate? If someone I knew asked me to go outside without without giving me context, I imagine my mind might run to a very awkward place. I might start thinking something like this, "Ok, maybe they have something heavy to share with me. Am I emotionally prepared to help them? Gosh, are they about to confess some deep dark secret?" Something about how we frame a question can really impact how readily people will help us, even if they know our character and personality. Now let's re-frame the question with our problem at the start. "I have a flat tire and I need someones help. Can you follow me outside?" Now that we have established context, our request makes a lot more sense and our participant is primed to help us, even without us asking for it directly.

Try utilizing this technique if you are asking something of anyone. See the impact it makes. I learned this lesson while gathering samples for my hand writing project. But the funny thing is, this is something that I have done plenty of times but it hasn't been a default approach to request. In the future, I will lead with the reason I want something and then make the request in hopes of a more efficient and pleasant exchange. In my next post I will share one other thing I learned while gathering samples for the hand writing analysis project. I'm calling it, "Don't Contaminate The Samples."


I have included an excellent link to a pdf for framing questions. I intend to use the ideas found in this PDF for my next research attempt.

Follow The Link Here: Framing Research Questions PDF

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