The T in our POLITE system stands for talking. We have already discussed, how important listening is in conflict resolution and talking, or more importantly questioning, is the tool we use to both listen and talk.

When I say questions, I am actually referring to open questions, as these will help you to build rapport with your subject.

Type of questions

When you are questioning people in a conflict situation, the best type of questioning to use, in my opinion, is the 5WH process. In other words the what, when, where, who? (why? we need to be careful with this) and how?

You need to be careful with asking WHY? Because:

  1. It can feel like you are accusing them e.g. “Why did you do this?”
  2. It’s not an accurate question – some people are abstract in the way they give their information and others are very specific.

If you use an open question, it allows the subject to let off steam and feel better about the problem.

Remember, the purpose of your questioning is to find out what the problem is because you can’t solve it until you know what it is. It may sound obvious to many but in my experience people aren’t as good at listening as they are at talking. As we all develop and get better at communication, we get more effective at asking questions and ultimately getting to the crux of problems.

Once you have asked all of your questions and listened you can then relay back to them what they have said. For instance: “So let me get this right you are annoyed because of A, B and C? If the other person agrees then you can move on into the problem solving process. However, if they say no to what you have relayed then you will have to go back to the questioning again and you could have lost some rapport, so you will have to demonstrate some level of empathy.

For instance, “I am really sorry about this but do you mind if we go through this again.”

When you relay a person’s problem this is known as parrot phrasing.

How do you talk to others?

In truth, people like people similar to themselves, so people who like specific detail, like to be given specific answers, and the same goes for people who are abstract.

If you are trying to problem solve you need to stay speaking at the same level as the subject to maintain your rapport. It will be easy to keep it if you ask questions that keep the answers similar to their mannerisms. What I am trying to say is talk like them.

Depending on your line of questioning you might find you get too much, or worse still, not enough detail.

You must make sure the pace of your conversation is exactly as them. When you are building rapport you want to be mirroring them as closely as possible in terms of quality, language, speed, volume and tonality. For instance, a man will normally speak to a lady by slightly softening his voice.


People like people similar to themselves because ultimately we all trust ourselves. There is only one exception and that is paranoid schizophrenics who don’t trust anybody.

Be warned I may cover rapport in a bit more detail in a future post.