From the Archives ~ The Leading Question Strategy

I was digging in the archives of 365 yesterday looking for another post when I came upon this little gem. I decided to share it with you again because this strategy has proven useful, at times, in convincing my loved ones to declutter some things. I hope it will work for you.

Recently I was let in on a strategy on how to state a case or perhaps even get another person to come around to your way of thinking without their sensibilities being offended. The idea is to get people to think rationally about a subject without them realising that you are leading them in a direction they may not have considered.

The trick is to broach the topic in the form of a question that you quite likely have the same opinion on. Once you are in agreement you steer the conversation, maybe even in the form of another question, in the direction in which you want it to go. Successfully bypassing any undesirable emotional response while leading them hopefully to conforms to your way of thinking.

Making a request to grandparents that they don’t overindulge your children with excessive gifts of toys at Christmas and birthdays is a good example of how this ploy might work. Please see below for the scenario I have created to demonstrate this strategy.

While enjoying a normal conversation you bring up your topic by asking ~ “Did you have many toys to play with when you were growing up?”Hopefully they will say “Oh no!…” And they will regale you with some stories of the toys they do remember and how excited they were to receive them at the time.

Then comes the next question ~ “Did you feel deprived because you didn’t receive many or did you have fun regardless?” In this case you will hope the answer is “No we made our own fun. Children these days have no imagination…”

Then comes the $100 question “Do you think children these days have far too many toys?” I have never encountered an adult of my generation or above who ever answered no to this. They all think the current generation is spoiled rotten.

At this point you go in for the kill or should I say you come to the point of your conversation, while you have the upper hand, by saying “I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Don’t you think it would be a good idea if perhaps instead of giving lots of things to the children we all limit ourselves to giving one material gift and perhaps put some money in a bank account for them….”

What has occurred here is that the parent has extracted a true and logical opinion from the grandparent about how overindulged children are these days. Once they have showed their hand you then play your trump card by suggesting your idea of reducing this overindulgence for your own children (their grandchildren). By this point how could they not think that this is a good idea. And even if they do realise that they have been lead to this point, what can they do without losing face but agree your idea is sound.

I have to say I have been at the receiving end of this strategy more than once. Lead there by a certain person in particular who shall remain nameless. I nearly always twig as to what he is up to, but by then he has me caught hook line and sinker. I have to tell you that I am usually glad to be caught. Why, you might ask. Because I have a tendency to allow my emotions to rule my head far too much and his logic is much easier to swallow. With his clever manoeuvring I can then justify what for me may otherwise be a difficult emotional decision. I know my weakness well enough to be grateful to him for steering me away from that frightening abyss.

The beauty of this approach is that if the answers to the questions you are posing are not the ones that cement your case you can abort the mission at any time. No one ever need be the wiser that you were attempting to achieve an objective in the first place.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something you have been procrastinating about getting rid of for a while.

Eco Tip of the Day

Turn off lights when leaving the room no matter how long you are gone for. It really doesn’t take much effort but in the long term all the energy savings do add up.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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Continue reading with these posts:

  • The Leading Question Strategy Recently I was let in on a strategy on how to state a case or perhaps even get another person to come around to your way of thinking without their sensibilities being offended. The idea […]
  • Unwanted Gifts Today I am going to share with you a little story from a relative of a friend which I found most amusing. It is in relation to unwanted gifts and goes like this... One Christmas this […]
  • Day 86 Recycle & Reshuffle While looking in the linen closet to determine whether there were any old towels I could throw away my attention was drawn to some rolls of gift wrap and a box of gift bags. Which got me […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Excellent! Questions are powerful tools for getting what you want. As a long time educator, I have seen the advantage of asking questions over bullying or teaching by fiat over and over. Tact. Can’t navigate life without it.

  2. I am so terrible at this kind of logical questioning. My heart is open all the time, and so is my mouth. Speak first, and think later, that seems to be my natural way.

    So I welcome a few pointers 🙂

  3. This is a good strategy for leading discussions both at home and at work.

    Another of my favorite strategies I use when asking for someone’s help with something is an old negotiating strategy. You start by asking for something outrageous “Honey, do you think you could spend ALL day Saturday cleaning out the garage?” When they (rightfully) decline that request, you ask your question that was the action you wanted all along “Okay, well then could you maybe just sweep the floor in there?” Given that these two questions were posed together, you have a greater likelihood to gain compliance in the second request than if you had just asked the second thing without asking the outrageous question. My husband has read the same negotiating books I have so this doesn’t work in our house. 🙂 I can just ask my second question without the first. But this technique has proved useful to me many times in other situations.

    • Hi Melissa, at work is where my husband learned this tactic. It always amuses me when he comes home using it on me. As I said in the post, I always know what he is up to but it is so much better than speaking out of frustration that it is almost hypnotic to me. And quite often it is on a subject I was wanting to broach anyway so I am usually relieved and compliant.

  4. Good strategy. I try everything I can come up with. Grin.

  5. Great tips Colleen – and Melissa! Also, as a retired teacher I agree with CJ that questioning is one of the most powerful tools in teaching and learning.

  6. I like Melissa’s strategy!

  7. This really has nothing to do with today’s topic, but yesterday I went to a monthly luncheon with my mother and probably 8-10 other friends with whom she used to work. Her friends’ ages range from I’d guess late 50s to 88 (the age of the woman whose birthday it was). One man shared a house with his sister for many years and now is having his bathrooms remodeled. He said he gathered four garbage bags of items to get rid of from the cabinets before the remodeling and added that if anyone needed a curling iron, he had four of them that had belonged to his sister.

    This launched the discussion of how much clutter people had and how they’re trying to get rid of it, and they’re not purchasing the “dust collectors” anymore, and one woman added that she’s the one who throws everything out, while her husband is the packrat, which makes things difficult. I’ve gone to quite a few of these luncheons, and it’s the first time I’ve heard this topic brought up.

    Meanwhile, my nephew and I have a job this summer to clean out my mom’s basement and garage, and it will be a daunting task, to say the least. My mother said she doesn’t care what we keep and what we throw out. (My dad was the one who saved everything, but it was always orderly.) I guess it’ll keep my mind off my own basement, which is even worse! My husband has committed to helping me remove 1 item a week from the basement, but I hope this will turn into more, as happened with the two filing cabinets.

    For Thursday’s mission, my 7-year-old daughter was the one who decluttered many toys from her play area. She finally agreed to get rid of her doll babies’ bunk bed (a somewhat large item), and this was hard for her. She also filled three or four bags with other toys she doesn’t play with much anymore. I pointed out that she and her friends would enjoy playing in this area if she had more room.

  8. Definitely better to not overindulge, especially the little ones. It is so much better to give them something that will have a lasting effect. I like the idea of giving them money that they can use for the future. Most kids have more toys then they could ever begin to play with. All kids should have some toys but having too many can certainly be a hindrance.

    • We’ve gotten really lucky in that one of my friends has kids a few years older than mine, and she has given us all types of toys, such as a play kitchen and food, superhero toys, bikes and scooters, and LOTS of clothes. We’re always excited to go through the box to see what we have when the clothing size changes.

      I’m also happy to pass along everything we can for other kids to use, and usually toys and clothes are in decent enough shape that they can be given to someone else.

  9. I loved this post the first time I read it. Thanks for revisiting it. It was a nice reminder.

  10. Full disclosure: I have no children. I was one once, however. 🙂

    People seem to freak out about money and/or think that it’s inappropriate to give money. I am not one of those people, but I’ve learned that it can be the conversational equivalent of stepping on a landmine if you’re not careful. 🙂

    If I were talking to somebody about gifts for my (nonexistent 🙂 ) kids I think I’d leave the idea of money out of the equation. Either that or present it as an and/or with less threatening options (a movie, ice cream, a trip to an amusement park, etc.)

    You don’t want it looking like you’re just asking them to liquidate their gifts into cash and hand it over – even if that *is* what you’re doing. 😉

  11. I don’t remember this one from before. Excellent strategy – leading your audience to right where you want them.