This week I pondered the idea “Ask, don’t tell - the question/behaviour effect” from Steven Bartlett in his book The Diary of a CEO. He says that if you want to create positive behaviour, don’t make statements, ask binary yes or no questions. People are more likely to answer ‘yes’ if it will bring them closer to who they want to be, and once they answer ‘yes’, that yes is more likely to come true.
This means, for instance, that a sign that says “Please recycle” is much less likely to increase its viewers’ chance of recycling than a sign that says “Will you recycle?”. Telling yourself ‘I will eat vegetables today’ is less likely to increase your chances of eating vegetables than asking ‘Will you eat vegetables today?’
This week, I’ve tried this questioning method whenever I felt resistance.
Jeeyoon, will you slow down and focus on sectional practice of this piece? Will you eat a healthy lunch? Will you start a follow-up email draft to that person today? Will you finish this exercise with maximal effort?
According to Steven, the question/behaviour effect is even more powerful with questions that can only be answered with either yes or no. Starting the question with ‘will’ implies ownership and action and causes the question/behaviour effect to be even stronger than starting a question with a word like ‘can’ or ‘could,’ which imply that the question is about ability rather than action. ‘Will I go to the gym today?’ ‘Will I order healthy food for lunch?’
Allow no explanation. Just yes or no.
I like the idea of approaching this question from the third person perspective, talking to myself as a loving life coach. This method could help a friend or loved one by asking them a question: ‘Will you eat more healthily?’ or ‘Will you go for that promotion?’
At the end of one piano practice session this week, I noticed I was not focusing as much as at the beginning of the hour. I asked myself: ‘Jeeyoon, will you finish this practice session with full concentration and keep it in flow?’ Interestingly, as soon as I asked that question, I noticed myself correcting my posture to be straight and saying, ‘YES!’
The last 10 minutes of my practice session were saved, noticed, and, importantly, enjoyable compared to just pushing through them without an awareness. I love that a tiny simple life hack like this could make a world of difference at the very moment.
Conversely, one night, I asked myself: ‘Will you stretch for 5 minutes?’ And I answered ‘No.’ As they say, ‘No’ is a complete sentence. In fact, I was too tired to push that night. The following day, I was more motivated and inspired to do a full 30-minute feel-good evening yoga when I had energy. The clarity about how I am doing by asking questions is what I love the most about this method.
Ask questions of your actions, and your actions will answer.
I encourage you to try this method, especially when you feel resistance yet want to direct your actions to be closer to who you want to be.
Please share your question with me.
“Will you _____________?”
Have a wonderful week!