Don’t Ask Me No Questions, and I Won’t Tell You No Lies


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Is it possible to discover and diagnose the most challenging customer problems without ever asking a question?

A new book, When Doctors Don’t Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests describes how.

On the January 24, 2013 segment of NPR’s Diane Rehm Show, author Dr. Joshua Kosowsky elaborated on the idea. Here’s a portion of the transcript (for the full transcript, click here):

Kosowsky: . . . I try not to ask questions, as it turns out. And, in fact, I do an exercise with my medical students, which I call No Questions Asked, where I ask my students to go into a patient’s room and take as complete a history as they possibly can and not to ask any questions . . . And, well, you’re looking surprised . . .

Rehm: Yes. [emphatically]

Kosowsky: I allow them to ask why questions and I allow them to ask how questions and questions that come up in a course of normal conversation, like, “Is your husband here with you?” or “what do you do for work?” That’s okay. But no pointed questions, certainly no yes/no questions about the diagnosis that brought the patient there. I have to tell you, the look on my students is like the look you’re giving me when I say you can do this.

They say it absolutely can’t be done because we need to fill out all this informational checklist to figure out what’s going on. But after trying this two or three times, it’s remarkable what kinds of histories that patients are able to provide to these doctors because the doctors stopped interrupting them with lots of questions. They don’t lead them in directions that don’t make sense.

They don’t pepper them with a long laundry list of yes/no questions that have marginal relevance. And they walk away actually understanding the story. Now, remember, these are medical students, so they may not be in a position to actually make a diagnosis, but at least they’re heading in the right path.

If the technique works for discovering appendicitis and heart failure, could it be equally effective for discovering business pain? Could it work powerfully in customer service?

How would you kick off the conversation? Here’s a thought: “My top priority is to learn, and if I discover a challenge or limitation that I know how to solve, I will offer you my recommendations.”

Then, turn on, tune in, take notes.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. Robert: Thanks for your comment. if you can get past the funny unintentional innuendo, this video describes the program for which this discovery strategy was developed. If it works in a demanding hospital emergency room environment, there’s no doubt in my mind it has immense potential for other stressful venues as well.



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