How Fear Turned Truth-Seeking into an Ambush

I threw my best friend under the bus during a dinner the other night, and he wasn’t even there. I’m writing this because I apologized to him this morning. What followed was a very healthy discussion on questioning, effective board members, and relationships.

The other night I was having dinner with four good friends. I started the dinner using my friend as a bad example. I knew I made everyone uncomfortable because I was uncomfortable when I brought it up. But I needed their feedback.

Successfully Destroying Trust

In a recent board meeting, my friend started asking very direct questions. The kind which leads the listener down a path to the questioner’s conclusion.

I felt the tension building from the CEO because he knew the questions were leading somewhere he might not want to go.

At the dinner, I confessed that I do this with my kids. Then I realized I do it with people I mentor and even with my wife. This line of questioning does not build trust. It destroys it.

If I have something to say, I need to say it. If I have a question to ask, I should ask it. But the questions should be motivated by curiosity. Questions shouldn’t end with me ambushing the person.

Fear Based Questioning

One of my dinner friends said, “The reason we use this questioning technique is fear.”

“Fear?” I asked.

“Yes. Fear. We want to control the outcome. So we use this questioning technique to get us there. It is fear motivated and therefore disingenuous.”

“The questions are motivated in knowing I am right or being fearful you are wrong. In both cases, I am driven by fear,” I said.

“That’s it,” he replied.

Trusting God for Outcomes

Life and business. It is all about relationships. We need to respect each other and trust God with the outcome.

As best friends, we are learning together. The conversation ended with him telling me, “I love you.” He is my friend for life.

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2 thoughts on “How Fear Turned Truth-Seeking into an Ambush

  1. I think you are conflating method and motivation. If you are 100% for someone and not simply pushing your agenda, and a Socratic method of questioning helps someone come to a better conclusion that they would be more resistant to otherwise, it might be a wise thing to do. At the same time, you should be transparent. Like you said, “If you have something to say, say it.” But sensitivity should come into play.

    • I may be confusing method and motivation. However, I can tell you my buddies motivation is to get to the right answer. The problem arises, when the CEO and the board member are in disagreement on the proper course of action. When this is the situation, the socratic method comes across as manipulative or maybe even arrogant.