Socrates was one of the greatest educators that ever lived (his former students include Plato and Aristotle.) He taught his pupils using a methodology that consisted of asking questions and drawing out answers and was later dubbed the “Socaratic Method.”
The Socratic Method challenges the accuracy and completeness of thinking in such a way that it moves people towards their ultimate goal. And for job seekers and those seeking career advancement, the Socratic Method can be a valuable skill to master.
How Socrates Can Help You Land a Job or Further Your Career
Socratic questioning is at the heart of critical thinking and a skill that nearly all employers actively seek out in when hiring talent, or reviewing the individual performance and promotability of employees. In a job search or while on the job, using the Socratic Method can help individuals cross-examine the claims and premises of someone in order to reveal contradictions or internal inconsistencies that could impact you and your career.
Jedi Mind Trick? No. A key to intelligence gathering, deeper understanding and improved communication? Yes. In building any relationship, people seek out common ground and work to find a way to connect in a way that is mutually beneficially for both. The Socratic Method can help find that common ground and build that relationship through deeper understanding if delivered correctly.
Ever wish you could know what someone else is thinking so you can put those insights to use and reach a goal? If you have, then you’ve found a super power any mortal can posses through the art of conversation and “the ask.”
Ask – And Keep Asking
There are six types of Socratic questions that you can put to use to further a dialogue with an interviewer, boss, or other professionals who might be able to help you in your career. The important thing is to keep the conversation going – without sounding like you’re interrogating them or bordering on the grounds of being an annoyance or flat-out rude.
Paying close attention to body language, facial expressions and listening for hesitant verbal cues will be key to gaining the most value out of your conversation without prompting your subject to shut down, and become guarded.
The 6 Types of Socratic Questions
These questions get your subject to think more about what they’re asking or thinking about and prove concepts behind their rationale.
How to put it to use: Ask basic “tell me more” questions that will lead the participant to go deeper and provide more context.
- What do you mean by…….?
- Can you give me an example?
- What do we already know about this?
- Are you saying……or……?
- Could you rephrase that please?
These questions lead the subject to think more about their presuppositions and unquestioned beliefs and should be phrased/delivered carefully.
How to put it to use: Ask questions that challenge their thinking and push for deeper contextual understanding of the subject’s personal point-of-view.
- Please explain why/how……?
- What would happen if….?
- Do you agree or disagree with…..?
- You seem to be assuming….?
- What else could we assume?
Probing Reasons & Clarification
These questions challenge the subject to provide rationale for potentially weakly understood or un-thought-through responses.
How to put it to use: When giving rationale for their view or argument, instead of assuming it is a given, dig further by asking questions that will challenge their rationale. This can be especially useful for negotiations and developing upward mobility in job responsibilities/functions.
- How do you know this?
- What would change your mind?
- What do we already know about this?
- Can you give me an example of that?
- How can I be sure of what you’re saying?
Viewpoint & Perspectives
Most arguments stem from a particular position without considering that there are other equally valid viewpoints.
How to put it to use: Ask questions that challenge the position of the subject and invite further thought and consideration.
- Why is this better than…….?
- Who benefits from this?
- How are……and ……similar?
- What is an alternative?
- What if you compared…. and…..?
Probing Implications & Consequences
Logical implications in the dialogue can be forecast by probing further to see if they make sense and are desirable.
How to put it to use: Ask questions that beg, “if this then what?”
- Why is this issue important?
- How can we find out?
- What are the implications of?
- Then what would happen?
- How does this affect…..?
Questions About the Question
These questions ‘bounce the ball back in the court’ of the participant by turning the question on itself.
How to put it to use: Ask reflexive questions that will gather more information, provide mutual clarification, etc.
- What was the point of asking that particular question?
- Am I making sense? Why not?
- What else might I ask?
- What does that mean?
- Why do you think I asked that question?
The Socratic Method takes patience and practice to master and become a truly effective tool in your communication skills before you can put it to use in a professional setting. Try practicing it in your daily conversations with family, friends, or trusted colleagues. It helps to write out your questions and the information goals or outcome you wish to obtain so you can better tailor your delivery. You can also look at joining a debate group or Toastmasters club which helps people build their public speaking skills (also great for one-on-one conversations or small group talks.)