• David de Souza

'Ask Powerful Questions' Summary



My biggest takeaway from this book was the idea of projecting moral authority by evoking a statement from a respected 3rd party. Doing so takes the attack from you as the questioner to someone with expertise, trust or moral authority.

Want to dig deeper than the core principles? Check out my notes in Roam Research and see how the principles from this book connect with other books I've read.





Core Principles:


I have summarized 'Ask Powerful Questions', distilling the book into 25 core principles:

  1. You can use questions to prime and persuade someone. The more you think about something the more likely you are to engage in that behavior. For example: Asking someone if they are going to vote will increase the likelihood that they will buy 25%

  2. People want to be heard and understood and it provides deep value to them when they are.

  3. Everyone has a unique life story and experience. We all have something of value to share. Your goal is to find out what that thing is.

  4. Use "we" to empower and exhilarate people around you.

  5. The 2 most common fears for connecting with people are: 1. Fear of being rejected 2. Fear of looking stupid

  6. To build rapport, ask questions about something you are curious about. For example: "I'm curious about your hat. How does the world respond to you, when you wear that hat?"

  7. If you ask: "How was your weekend?" it takes people to the past, somewhere they are not. This creates unconscious resistance.

  8. Compliments are a form of judging and can therefore be problematic. Don't say: "I like your tattoo say "You must get comments about your tattoo all the time"

  9. Both body language and especially words, help people to be "seen" and feel at ease.

  10. To become more open be aware of what triggers you to become closed.

  11. "But" has the effect of negating anything that was said before it. Use "and" instead of but"

  12. Open-ended questions usually start with: How/What/Why. Be careful with 'Why' questions, they can often produce defensiveness and scripted responses.

  13. Closed-ended questions usually start with: Do/Is/Does/Where/When/Who.

  14. When you forgo judging and use curiosity within your questions, people feel like you are saying "I hear you".

  15. Instead of asking 'feeling' or 'thinking' based question, ask a question that allows the person to identify as either a "feeler" or a "thinker". For example: 1. How are you taking the news? 2. How are you adjusting? 3. How did you react?

  16. A question can be powerful but if you do not have rapport, or you are not open or listening (asking simply to be right), it will lose its power.

  17. There are 4 types of Reflective Listening: 1. Verbatim - Mirror back exactly what the person said. Best for clarification and when emotions are high. 2. Translation - Use synonyms to translate what the person said. 3. Unstated Feelings - Express what you think the person is feeling. 4. Connecting the Dots - Connect to a different theme or idea. Best used when people are self-reflecting or ready to explore.

  18. When using reflective listening, end by saying: "Did I get that right?"

  19. When we sympathetically listen, we think we are listening, but we are really listening to how we feel. We are hearing our own story while they tell theirs.

  20. To be empathetic describe how a person sees the world: "It sounds like you believe...."

  21. When there is tension in a conversation, leave the content (what is being talked about) and pivot to a place of process (how it is being talked about). For example: "Wait a moment. Let's leave this topic for a moment and talk about what got us so worked up".

  22. When there is disagreement look for connections:"I am hearing John say abc and Ben say xyz. What is the connection between these experiences and how might what each of them say be true for others in the room?"

  23. Instead of being neutral take all sides.

  24. Invite people to think before they answer.

  25. Managing over talkers by: 1. Stopping them: "Can I pause you there". 2. Complimenting them genuinely: Thank you for sharing" 3. Reflecting on what you heard: "I heard you say..." 4. Inviting others to respond: "Let's see how others respond to what you just said"


Let me know how these summaries can be improved? Contact me via Email (david@thisdomain.co) or on Twitter.



The 80/20 of Worldly Wisdom: