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 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 out 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 form the grandparent about how overindulged children are these day. 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 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 hood 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

Roundup all the little tools that are scattered throughout your home. Once together declutter any excess.

Today’s Declutter Item

Stage 2 of the great craft declutter is underway at last. I have opened an Etsy store and have made my first sale. What a fun and creative way to declutter. The photo collage below show my handcrafted products purchased in that first sale.

My first Esty sale


For a full list of my eco tips so far click here

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

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About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. A lovely approach. I was so fortunate in that my parents came to that conclusion all on their own. When my oldest was three or four, my parents (bless them!) came to our place for a week so my husband and I could take a vacation. Because of my Dad’s mobility issues, my Mother moved most of the toys out of the family room and into the boys’ room — and came to her own conclusion about gifts which she cleared with us: could they give savings bonds (US) and a very small gift instead of big toys? We were thrilled and while the (now college aged boys) have this memory that they have some savings bonds, they seldom really saw them because they had something to open and I put them safely away as soon as they arrived. They will so happy when they each graduate college and we turn over what will have added up to over two thousand dollars each — and they certainly didn’t miss the toys they didn’t get.

  2. What is your Etsy store name?

  3. Congrats on your first Etsy success, Colleen!

  4. Oh my! I’ve been using this strategy on Mom and didn’t even know it. Hum! I like this. I will have to be more conscious about it. I like all thos cards you sold on etsy. Hope everything sells quickly. One more thing gone.

    • Hi Deb J, clever manipulative you. 😉 I wonder if your mother noticed.
      I am glad you like the cards being as you are a papercrafter yourself. I am working on some gift tags at the moment. Making them is a great way of using up little bits of cardstock.

  5. excellent strategy! Love it!

  6. I shared your beautiful cards on Pinterest. Wishing you success!
    I love the roundup of things idea . In my head I sing the Woody’s roundup song from Toy Story. The other day I finally let Woody, Buzz and Bullseye find a new home through the local Vinnies. Yesterday I dropped the SouthPark gang at Lifeline.
    My youngest son has taken the “needs” idea for Christmas on board ,the other night whilst in the shower he called out and told me what we could get him for Christmas;a master cylinder for the clutch on his car.
    Might use your strategy on daughter, who has Victoria ‘s secrets underwear and Dior perfumes on her list.

    • Thanks Wendy F. I pin them every time a list a new set but a little extra advertising wouldn’t do me any harm.
      Well done with the toy decluttering. Vinnies I am sure are grateful.
      I like your son’s Christmas gift wish. I dare say it won’t be cheap but it sure is practical. Tell your daughter the Le Senza is Victoria Secret. I think I will put perfume on my list too as I am also nearly out of my Flower by Kenzo. Maybe I will try something different for a change.

      • Colleen – a few years back Adrian decided to buy me perfume as a gift, no special occaision, and he went into the department store and threw himself on the mercy of the shop assistants and after an hour of smelling fragrances and then narrowing it down he made his purchase. We were going out for dinner with my bro-in-law and sis-in-law and low and behold my SIL was wearing the same perfume. Turns out across the city, without any knowledge of the other, my BIL had gone into a pharmacy store and picked the same perfume too.

        • Moni, I thought this story was going to have a different ending. That she hated the fragrance he had bought her. I won’t leave that to chance and will do like your daughter and choose for myself and send hubby an email with jpegs.

          I did like the ending though. Fancy then choosing the same. I had a similar experience with a good friend. Without any mention of likes, dislikes or requirements we both bought each other the exact same jewellery box.

  7. Lovely cards Colleen! I felt the urge to send Christmas cards out this year, after not doing it for several years, and even bought a pack (so totally not me!) I think it was due to moving away from all my friends and family and feeling a need to stay in touch in a physical way, if that makes sense? Everyone will be shocked to receive one, and will probably be scrabbling about for a card to send back to me 🙂

    Love your take on how to psych out excessive gift-giving! We did this to my mum years ago, with great success:-)

    • Hi Loretta, I figure since I don’t go home the least I can do is send a handmade card. I had to remove a pack from Etsy yesterday in order to have enough to send. I may pilfer another pack today once I have made something else to take it’s place.

      I decided to write todays post while I was out walking with my husband the other day when the subject came up. He really shouldn’t show his hand like that but I was wise to him anyway.

  8. Brilliant strategy!
    I might just have to cast this clever spell on a few folks I know!

  9. How do I access your Etsy store?

  10. Brilliant strategy! Worth remembering (although we don’t have the present buying grandparent issue :)). Cheers Judy xx

    • I Judy, I don’t have the present buying grandparent issue either. We have mostly lived to far away for people to be loading us up at Christmas time with stuff to bring home. We don’t get home from Christmas very often anyway and besides the kids are all grown now. One isn’t even in the same country this year.

  11. I recently was talking to a relative concerning gifts for the upcoming holiday season. This relative mentioned something that they wanted to do for an extended family member but could not afford to do so. When the relative mentioned this, I took the opportunity to say that we should, as immediate family members, decide to not exchange gifts this year. They were relieved. In my mind, if they were already stressing about what they could or could not afford for a distant relative, then it was okay to not exchange gifts with each other. We do a little for the children in each others’ families, but nothing over the top.

    I like that there is always someone that you can count on, usually a male, in the family that can bring a detached perspective to most any item that I need an opinion on. There is usually no emotion involved from his perspective, and nine times out of ten, I am the only one who has an attachment, emotional or not, to any given item that I am contemplating. It usually always makes my decision so much easier.

    Love your Etsy items!

    • Hi Jen, that really was a good opportunity to make it easy on your relative. My family has never bought for distant relatives. Many many years ago we stopped buying for our siblings, nieces and nephews when there became more than was sensible to buy for. At that point we only shopped for Mum, Dad and our own very immediate family. That fact that half of us lived interstate made sense to do it this way. I eventually called a halt to even the remaining exchanges once we realised that we had just shipping cash back and forwards for years.

      One would think that it is usually the women of the household who cling to sentimental items but I find that I am the least sentimental one. There seems to me to be several dust collectors in our household that appear to have more sentimental value than the people from the past who gifted them in the first place. Strange.

  12. Colleen, your cards are beautiful. Good luck with the selling.

    I’m glad you wrote about the strategy of asking a series of questions to lead the other person where you want them to go. I always plunge in with the end question/statement and of course it does not end well 🙂

  13. I have been busy! I have sold a george foreman steamer and portable oven and a portable air conditioner on ebay in the last week. And tomorrow I am getting rid of an upright buffet, a computer chair, a very old battered side table from my childhood and an exercise bike. When those things are gone, I will be able to rearrange a couple of rooms so I can turn a room into a bedroom again! YAY!

  14. After reading your post I had my daughter-in-law check the presents I bought for our grandchild. Also, I had bought some for my daughter to give her. I was afraid I had gone over board. She approved of the presents and thanked me for letting her see what I had bought. She did give me the idea for them. The rest of the family I check with to see what I could give that was not clutter. I am still clearing out my house after downsizing. This is a very hard task. I have give over one hundred bags away and I thought I was finished. NOT! I did request for Christmas for them to give me nothing or only things that could be consumed!

  15. Well done Wanda on all fronts. I am sure your daughter appreciated you considering her opinion important.

    Look on the bright side of the downsizing Wanda. Once you have reduced your belonging to what will fit easily you will have a much easier task keeping a smaller home clean. My last downsize wasn’t intended but I am sure glad it happened. In a way it ended up changing my life for the better.

    Smart move requesting no gifts or ones that can be consumed. That is what I am doing as well. Oh and one thing to replace something else I don’t like and will donate.

  16. I have pared back Christmas so much this year!
    Restraint was the hardest with my kids, but when I keep reminding myself how much everyone ELSE gets them I know they won’t be feeling deprived. We tried having the talk with the grandmas a while back, but my mom doesn’t spend time with her grandkids so she argues that its her way of expressing affection. She felt hurt when I suggested my children don’t need so much. I have relented, and I let her “spoil” her grandchildren. But I don’t. One “big” present and a stocking full of fun from mom & dad is the rule now.

    • That is a good solution creative me. If you can’t get the grandparents to capitulate then at least you can put a limit on your own gift giving. I am sure the kids won’t feel like they are missing out.

  17. We used to give gifts to all the family members, siblings and their children but as the children grew up and married, we decided to just give to the grands of our siblings. Now that group is growing but I think most of the families are the size they are going to be. The eldest is now 14 and it is really hard to decide what to get her. I’m sure we will begin to rethink the gift giving as the grands get older and we have less disposable income as senior citizens. For now, I do give my sisters and brother a special Christmas ornament from the White House ornament collection and that makes me feel good and it is something they cannot get where they live. I will revisit this once I retire and see if it is something I can still afford to do. For now, it gives us pleasure to send these gifts and they are things that can be passed down to their kids. As a matter of fact, the kids are clamoring for them every year as soon as my siblings get them.
    We give our grands a savings bond each year and PJ’s for Christmas Eve opening and then a toy or two. This year, we are giving gifts from our son and us together because the gifts are becoming pricey as the kids get older. This way, they can get a gift we know they will like and we can save a little money, too. We do check with the parents to make sure we are not stepping in Santa’s way before we buy.

  18. Thanks for sharing this wonderful strategy! I can imagine using it in many situations, both at home and at work. It will help me with the downsizing mission we are in—I can use this strategy on spouse who doesn’t want to let go—and maybe even myself, who also doesn’t want to let go!
    1. It will be wonderful having a townhome and not having to do many repairs, yard work, painting etc., won’t it?”
    2. “Won’t it feel like a load off of our shoulders?”
    3. “Won’t it be great to be rid of all these reminders of all the work we have had to do– tools, hardware, etc.?”
    I would love to see examples from others. I can’t think all of them up!

    Also, your cards are beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Connie, I am glad you think this strategy will be useful to you. I wish you luck with convincing your spouse to move into that townhouse.

      Thank you for the compliment about my cards. I really enjoyed making them and I must do some more soon before I run out of stock.

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  1. […] this first comment from Sassy she tells us about her clever parents giving gifts that will be very helpful in the long […]