#82 Enhance Collaboration with Low Advocacy Questions

Enhance Collaboration with Low Advocacy Questions

Much is made of the difference between open and closed questions in conflict resolution training, but there are additional ways of understanding questions that are highly relevant to being collaborative.

The amount of advocacy included in your question is one of those understandings. When you ask an open question, is it a low advocacy question that seeks to uncover the experience or perspective of the other party?

Example: What is your evaluation of the proposed pipeline?

Or, is it an open question that carries with it a viewpoint?

Example: What do you think of the environmental group that is trying to block the pipeline project and hurt economic progress in the region?

Questions supply information as well as seek information. In the second example above, the questioner is advocating for a viewpoint that links environmentalism with restriction of economic growth.

This low advocacy – high advocacy distinction is one of purpose. If you want a reaction to your own viewpoint, then certainly frame a question as the latter example in a high advocacy form. However, be aware that such a question is more likely to escalate conflict interaction.

On the other hand, you can enhance the collaborative quality of your open questions by becoming more aware of the information you are communicating while you seek information. In general, communicating less information will make the question lower in its advocacy and more likely to promote collaboration.

Example: How much time do you think we should take to reach a decision?

Versus a high advocacy question:

How much time will we have to waste to reach a decision?

You may believe it is a waste of time to meet over the decision. If so, you are probably better saying so, then following your statement with the first rather than second question above.

Example: I believe that meeting at all over this decision is a waste of time. How much time do you think we should take to reach a decision?

By separating your opinion from your question, you make your communication more digestible. In the first case you impose your viewpoint on the person to whom you ask the question because in simply answering the question, the person is in some sense being asked to accept that a meeting is a waste of time. He or she may disagree. Rather than replying to what you ask, the person may feel a need to defend a viewpoint instead.

Example: Actually, I don’t think it is a waste of time to meet.

In general, simpler questions carrying less information will promote collaboration because in using them you are not advocating for a point of view. If you have viewpoints tied to your question, you will generally be more clear and effective in your communication by stating your viewpoint independent of the question and then following your statement with a low advocacy question.

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