Intervening in Leading Questions

Goal: Build your skill at intervening effectively in leading questions directed toward other people

Estimated time: 20–40 minutes

Wait to try this exercise until you feel fully comfortable responding to leading questions. Here you need to work together with two other people, one to ask leading questions and the other to be on the receiving end. Choose people whom you feel comfortable with, and whom you trust to give you honest feedback. The simplest option is to work with the same partner who helped you with Exercise 7 in Chapter 6, plus one other person who knows you both. Review the strategy outlined in the “Intervention Skill” section of Chapter 6, and then go through the following steps:

  1. Think of a past situation in which you heard someone ask leading questions, and you had authority to intervene but didn’t know how. Give your partners the basic details of what happened, including when, how, and by whom the leading questions got asked.
  2. Your partners role-play the discussion.
  3. The first or second time you hear a leading question, use the intervention strategy:
    • Refocus. Point out that you hear two different things in what the person is saying: an opinion and a question. Ask if they can hear both of these parts. If they can’t, paraphrase each one, so it’s clear what you’re referring to.
    • Invite Reframing. Ask them what they’d like to bring into the conversation—just their opinion, just their question, or both—then invite them to do that. If they want to say both their opinion and their question, ask them to give their opinion first.
  4. Listen to how the person reframes their question. If you notice problems at any point (for instance, if the rephrased question still comes out leading), intervene again to help get things back on track.
  5. Debrief the exercise. Talk with your partners about what each of you experienced. Ask them what aspects of your intervention worked well, and which did not.
  6. If you’re not satisfied with how you intervened, keep trying until you can do it in a way that feels both comfortable and effective.

Repeat this exercise as often as you’d like. It’s best to take turns, with each person trying all three roles, so you get to experience the effects of the intervention from every position in the conversation.


Situation: Conversation between individuals from two different departments: marketing (Jill) and product development (Joe).


Jill: When is the next prototype going to be ready?

Joe: I don’t know. We’re running into some delays.

Jill: We need to know asap so we can plan around that date.

Joe: It’s hard to say. We hadn’t anticipated these sorts of problems.

Jill: You’re still going to be able to make the final release date, right? (Leading question)

Intervener: Jill, I’m hearing two different things in what you’re saying: an opinion and a question. Are you aware of both those parts?

Jill: No, I don’t know what you mean.

Intervener: I heard you express your opinion that Joe’s department can make the final release date. I also heard you asking Joe a question, wanting to know whether that’s true. Is that accurate?

Jill: Yes.

Intervener: Great. Now, do you want to bring both your opinion and your question into the conversation, or just one or the other?

Jill: I just want to ask the question.

Intervener: Okay, go ahead.

Jill: Joe, are you still on track to meet the final release date?

Joe: I still think we’ll be able to meet the deadline, but I can’t guarantee it 100%.

Online Exercises Main Menu