Doesn’t Hurt To Ask: Using The Power Of Questions To Communicate, Connect, And Persuade, by Trey Gowdy
This book made me think less of the person writing it. This was probably not the intention of the author, but the author’s willingness to think well of people with terrible worldviews, his sharing of the over-optimism about human nature and the power and worth of government with his statist and socialist political opponents, and his demonstration of his susceptibility to bogus emotional reasoning demonstrate that he is not remotely strong enough as a conservative to support as a political leader. That is not to say that this is a worthless book–it does indeed have some content that is well worth reading and applying, not least a reminder to check our own ability to be persuaded and a reminder to avoid double standards when it comes to standards of evidence in politics. The author also shows some awareness of the double standards that exist in contemporary journalism, so it’s not as if he is hopelessly naive, but his knowledge of proper theology is dangerously limited and it presents him with a false basis for many of his beliefs about people, including a belief that most people are good, which is, alas, not the case.
This book is about 250 pages and three parts and seventeen questions. The introduction of the book discusses the author’s path from the courtroom to Congress. The first part of the book then discusses six chapters on what someone would need before opening their mouth (I), including the fact that there are stupid questions (1), the subtle art of persuasion (2), knowing the objectives, facts, and oneself (3), knowing one’s jury (4), the burden of proof (5), and the importance of sincerity (6). The next eight chapters after this deal with the act and art of persuasion (II), including corroborating as opposed to contradicting (7), leading and non-leading questions (8), impeaching others (9), hitch-hiking (10), repetition (11), choosing the right words (12), concise packaging of one’s points (13), and turning the tables on others (14). The book then ends with three chapters on using questions on others (III), including expectations (15), how to know if one has the knack of asking good questions (16), and the author’s closing argument (17), after which the book ends with acknowledgements.
There is a certain degree of power in asking questions, but that power can be used for good or for evil. It is not always clear that the author understands the difference between the two. Let us not forget, after all, that Eve was deceived with leading questions that persuaded her to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Given that, the use of questions must be viewed as a tactical decision as a means of finding a way around the temptation to try to argue or debate someone into agreement, and is not in any way a statement as to the morality of one’s approach. And it is in questions of morality that the author appears to be least sound, which is greatly unfortunate. The author’s unwillingness to recognize the wickedness that lies within the hearts of people leads him to trust his own heart in reasoning and the hearts of others to too high a degree, and also leads him to think too highly of the power of laws to regulate the conduct of lawless and rebellious mankind, thus making creeping tyranny both likely and ineffective. And when it comes to some things, it definitely does hurt to ask.