How you phrase the question influences the answer(s) you receive. Question mark made of puzzle pieces

We all know this intuitively. Our senses go on alert when we hear that question that seems to contain within it a judgement about what the right answer might be. Then there are the poll-takers, with questions and multiple choice answers that point to a pre-existing conclusion.

When designing a group process, it is also importance to consider the framing of your discussion questions. What do you want to achieve in the discussion? What words are more or less likely to open people up versus pushing their buttons?

An HOA board member once asked meeting participants if anyone had any complaints about parking. Oh, boy, did they! Invite complaints and you will get them! From all the heat in the room an observer might assume that this condominium complex had ten parking spaces for fifty units. It was unsafe, people had to walk long distances in the dark, there weren’t enough spaces, on and on.

At a subsequent meeting of the same group, I drew an imaginary line down the center of the room, labeling one end 100% and one end zero. I asked folks to physically place themselves on that line to indicate what percentage of the time they were able to park within a specified distance from their preferred spot. They all clumped up in the 90-100% range…a VERY different picture from the previous meeting!