Psychology test, picture of a man with a brainwave measurement device on his head for a test.

The Impossibility Question: How to Move People Towards You From Negative to Positive

If You Read One Short Article on Business-Psychology Read this One …

As a reader of business-related books and a student of the power of the human mind (though by no means an expert), I like to share communications techniques I find to help you be better and stronger at managing communications. The Impossibility Question is one I really like because of the power it gives us to really move someone to a different level. The applications for this can be in the management of personnel, the sales process, performance evaluations, team thinking, and many additional situations we each encounter every day. Use it often!

Let’s set the scenario:

You are talking with your boss. You can clearly see that it is in the company’s best interests to move to a new system, and you’ve laid everything out for him: cost savings, increased profit margins, fit with the current company systems, etc., but your boss is insisting on sticking with the good old system they’ve used for years. You’re experiencing major resistance. This is an excellent opportunity for you to use…

The Impossibility Question 

This communications technique works with someone who is somewhere between resisting and listening but not ready to move to considering. Said another way, the person is wavering between fear (this is a threatening idea and it will fail and ruin me) and apathy (this may be a good idea, but it sounds like too much effort on my part).

Notice the heavy emphasis on “me?” 

Let me be very clear on this: This is not about you, your product, your service, or your idea!

Here’s how it works:

You say: “What’s something that would be impossible to do, but if you could do it, would dramatically increase your success?”
They respond: 
“If I could just do _______, but that’s impossible.”
You say: 
“OK. What would make it possible?”

Then stop talking!

Your words do this:  

You move them into an open thinking attitude.  This is positive! You shift their mind into a positive (agreeing) movement towards you. Once they are in the YES mode, they are poised to cooperate.

If the person responds negatively, which may be due to instinct, just wait quietly, even if you are on the phone with them. The person’s mind will take hold of the question you’ve posed and the person will feel compelled to give you an answer. When you get your answer, you’re in!

More examples of communication with stuck people …

Someone you are working with or for needs to move to a different level. A prospective customer? A current customer? A supervisor? An employee? A vendor? This versatile question can be used in multiple places: 

  • a conversation or

  • an interview or

  • a performance evaluation

Use this often – This is a tool for you

The more you use this, the easier it will get to remember it and you’ll be really good at using it. Simply like so many things in life, repetition embeds a skill in your brain. How did you learn 2 + 2? Exactly! Repetition!

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