“Don’t tell what you can ask!” 

“Asking questions is the key to influence and persuasion.”

Again, these are good pieces of advice that contain a lot of truth and wisdom. But what happens in an Asian context when questions are directed, especially towards parents or others in senior roles, or even customers? It is often perceived as insolence and met with ire, if some defensiveness.

“Who are you to question me?”

“Are you trying to be funny?”

“I’m the boss, just do!

Yet the truisms still hold. Questions are the way to go in building assertiveness. The trick is presenting your questions in a way that will be best received. Are you ready?

Here’s the “magic formula” that should work 8 times out of 10:

Preface your real questions with a clarifying question.

To a customer: “In order for me to better respond to your needs, may I clarify a few points with you, please?”
To a boss: “Certainly, I will do as you instruct. May I just clarify a few things with you to ensure we’re on the same page?”

You get the idea? That one question affirms your cooperation while inviting a clarifying dialogue that allows you to then ask your ‘assertive question’. Try it and see. We will be delighted if you post your experiences or further questions here and we’ll be sure to reply to you too.