Webinar/Workshop: The Disarming Power of Questions

With Sharon Strand Ellison & Ami Atkinson
Sharon is the author of Taking the War Out of Our Words &
Co-Producer, with her daughter, Ami Atkinson of the audio-book,
Taking Power Struggle Out of Parenting

Dates: Tuesdays: Oct 2 ~ Oct 9 ~ Oct 16 ~ Oct 23 ~ Oct 30 & Nov 6
1st Option for Time: ~9-11 am Pacific ~10-12 pm Mountain ~11-1 pm Central ~12-2 pm Eastern
2nd Option for Time: ~4-6 pm Pacific ~5-7 pm Mountain ~-6-8 pm Central ~7-9 pm Eastern
Length: 2 hours
CEUs:  Available for MFTs and LCSWs (12 hours)

Register Now!


Learn and practice more than a dozen formats for asking questions that can enhance our power to disarm defensiveness and get to the heart of an issue quickly, opening up the kind of genuine conversation that can lead to deeper resolution and connection.

The Problem:

Most people are asking questions in ways that actually prompt others to get defensive, rather than diffusing defensiveness. Some of the issues are:

1. Most people — even professionals with sophisticated communication skills — ask questions unconsciously
    using a tone of voice and body language that is likely to actually prompt defensiveness. This can be true     even when attempting to convey empathy.

2. A high percentage of the questions that both lay people and professionals ask have subtle (or even     obvious) agendas, even if the intention is only to encourage or empower a friend, family member, or

3. In some large part, due to problems 1 and 2, people are often taught to rely more on active listening     instead of questions and/or may commonly make statements, such as “Tell me more,” or “Help me out . . .”

The Solution:

Learn specific formats for asking questions that make it easier to quickly receive the exact kind of information you are seeking without prompting other people’s defenses. Instead of:
(a) automatically responding to what another person says with a    statement, (b) not being able to figure out what question to ask in the moment, (c) asking random questions that don’t get the information you want, and/or (d) asking questions that are leading, based on your own agenda, thus prompting others to resist.

Whether in a professional setting or in the context of an intimate relationship, even when discussing issues that can prompt immediate defensiveness, a skillful, genuine non-defensive question can instantly diffuse defensiveness and open up meaningful conversation. Such questions are effective in interacting with any person who is responding in ways that are difficult to deal with and thus have a negative impact in any conflict resolution process and/or ongoing relationship.

A few examples of such issues are when a person (a) is unwillingness to listen, (b) avoids responsibility, (c) has double standards, (d) tends to blame others for her/his own behavior, (e) is being controlling or manipulative, (f) sees her/himself as “always right” and/or (g) has an attitude of superiority.
Participants learn how to pick and chose from a range of formats for questions designed to get very specific kinds of information. You can use these questions not only to stimulate others to respond with openness and sincerity, but also to simultaneously holding others more accountable for their own reactions.

Presentation Methods and Learning Process:

During the PNDC Level II Questions Program, we'll cover at more than a dozen formats for asking questions. We’ll discuss, practice and debrief least six of the most versatile formats. After discussion, participants will practice in pairs or small groups using their own examples. Then we’ll debrief examples from the group. We’ll also briefly review at least six additional formats for asking questions, as time allows.

Examples of formats for Questions:

Inverting key statements into questions —Asking about contractions in what a person says that uncover valuable information — Drawing out hidden assumptions —  Asking directly about a person’s intention & motivation — Identifying key values, emotions, and reasoning attached to a persons position — Asking questions that enhance the person’s ability to compare and contrast various options — Using questions that give a client the opportunity to identify places where reactions such as judgment, fear, or vindictiveness block the process — and more.

In some cases, these questions are open-ended and in some cases, not. The non-defensive process allows people to ask very direct questions without judgment, prompting family, friends, clients and colleagues to be open to genuine dialogue. As you internalize the structure of these formats, it becomes easier to spontaneously access the question(s) you need.

Signed and Unsigned Comments About the PNDC Question Asking Process:

How many times have I said "Well, I know what she's going to say, so why bother asking?" This kind of anticipation is exactly what keeps us in conflict with others. Sharon teaches the art of asking questions without any assumptions or expectations. And, miraculously, what we hear is rarely what we anticipated. And here is where the learning and the real communication begins. You are one of the people who will help turn us from the violent society we are to a more powerful and loving one.

—Jenine Sternlieb, Host, A Novel Idea, KRCB Radio

The Powerful Non-Defensive Communication process has been invaluable to me in my work as an attorney and mediator. The formats for non-defensive questions have been particularly helpful, as they allow me to move beyond a party's position to find the true interests that lie behind it, without creating defensiveness. In turn, this helps the parties to feel that they have been thoroughly heard, creating more potential for the resolution of conflict.

Emily Doskow, attorney and mediator, Panelist for the U.S. District Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Panel

Training with Sharon has provided me with tools that allow me to maintain a safer container in mediation and collaborative practice settings.  Additionally, in a recent training role-play, I noticed the safety I felt to discuss issues that were very difficult for me while in the role of a client entrenched in her positions. The key, I believe, was the curious and straightforward questions asked of me by my colleague role-playing as my attorney.  My colleague, who has taken Sharon’s Questions Workshop, asked the kind of questions that allowed me to open up, think about the issues, and respond in a meaningful way.

—Suzan Barrie Aiken, Collaborative Attorney

I realize that by putting yourself in a place of true, deep curiosity, you can almost instantly defuse the other person’s defensiveness. What amazes me is not just the incredible success, but also the speed and directness. The potential to actually have a constructive and respectful conversation over an issue that could easily push anyone’s buttons is amazing.

—Arlene Kostant, Attorney and  Mediator, San Francisco, CA; Negotiation Instructor, UC  Hastings Law School & UC Berkeley Boalt Law School

The “Questions” training really expanded my ability to use PNDC in my Collaborative work.  Being able to ask an appropriate question gave me a tool to get the information I needed to be helpful to the client and to the process, and to avoid misunderstandings based upon my own personal and professional assumptions about what the clients, and my colleagues, are saying.  I recommend this training to all Collaborative Professionals!

David Fink, Collaborative Attorney

Unsigned Comments

~ I can see how asking questions in this new way will be so disarming and open up real communication.

~ I went home after the first session and asked my husband one non-defensive question and we had the best conversation we've ever had.

~ Your modeling of respectful and truly nonjudgmental curiosity helped me to receive the material intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. Thank you, Sharon, for this enriching experience.

~ Now I don’t have to struggle to think of what question to ask! Now it’s a matter of deciding which question I want to ask first to more easily and quickly get to the heart of an issue.

Registration for The Disarming Power of Questions:

Workshop Price: 385.00 (Partial Scholarships Available) - Register Now!

Special 2 person offer Workshop Price: 670.00 - Register Now!

Payment Option~1: To pay by credit card use the registration links above.

Payment Option~2: To Pay by Check, send a Registration Email, with "Questions Webinar" in the subject line and your contact information, as well as indicating you'd like to pay by check.

Send Check to:

Sharon Ellison c/o PNDC Institute,
4100-10 Redwood Road, No.316,
Oakland, CA 94619

You are welcome to contact Sharon directly for more information.

Phone: 510-332-0020 or 800-714-7334 Email: sharon@pndc.com


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Participant Comment:

"Now I don’t have to struggle to think of what question to ask! Now it’s a matter of deciding which question I want to ask first to more easily and quickly get to the heart of an issue."




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