In his recent book “Think Again ” Adam Grant examines powerful ways to influence with others, especially those who are convinced their way is best.

In explaining how we can foster greater interpersonal rethinking, Grant describes how doctors and counselors often use a technique called motivational interviewing to spark impressive rates of attitude and behavior change among the most resistant.

The essence of motivational interviewing is what Grant calls “persuasive listening”. This involves asking our counterpart open-ended questions to create psychological openings of self-refection in a non-threatening, non-judgmental way.

Further, in addition to prompting self-reflection, asking questions in this manner helps to reinforce our counterpart’s autotomy, the psychological term for someone’s perception their freedom is being respected.

While listening to Grant, I started thinking again about one of my favorites books on psychology and influence discovered during my first year in sales, aptly titled “Instant Influence” by Dr. Michael V. Pantalon.

What makes “Instant Influence” so great is that Pantalon, a Yale doctor and recovery coach himself, dedicates the entire book to explaining the effectiveness of motivational interviewing. Further, he provides a list of six specific questions that can be asked in progression by anyone attempting to gently steer a conversation towards change.

The questions are as follows:

  1. Why might you change?
  2. On a scale of 1-10, how ready are you to change?
  3. Why not lower?
  4. Imagine you’ve changed. What might be the positive results?
  5. Why are these important to you?
  6. What are the next steps, if any?

What makes this list so powerful is they all fit the criteria of what makes a great influence question.

First they are open-ended, urging our counterpart to self-reflect, while also elaborate their response beyond a yes or no answer. (For example, in a sales or negotiation conversation it is much more effective to ask, “What are your current goals?” vs “Do you have any goals?”)

Second, they are hypothetical. It is much more inviting for someone to consider why they “might” change and what the positive results “might” be versus admitting the need to change, or the obvious benefits being irrationally neglected.

Finally, they reinforce autonomy, fully respecting another person’s readiness to make a difficult change, as well as putting them in the driver’s seat when it comes to any next steps.


In the spirit of Grant, I am excited to Think Again about the effectiveness of Pantalon’s questions by putting them to the test.

Might you join me?

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