4. Case Study: Socratic Questioning

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay.

a. Listen to the video below, keeping your attention on what the two men are saying and not on the text that flashes up on screen. While listening, think about these questions:

  • (i) What is the discussion about, and what are the roles of the two participants?
  • (ii) What kind of questions are being asked in this dialogue?
  • (iii) How does the questioner develop the conversation?
Daniel Strunk and Justin Braun, Ohio State University

b. This is a demonstration of Socratic questioning being used in cognitive therapy.

  • Based on what you’ve heard in this video, what are the characteristics of Socratic questioning?

c. Below is another video about the Socratic method by the speaker and consultant Simon Ash. To what extent does his description match the method used in the previous video?

Simon Ash, ‘The Right Questions’

d. Discuss with a partner:

  • How could the Socratic method be applied, and what would be its likely effect:-
    • (i) by a team leader during a meeting?
    • (ii) by a HR professional in a job interview?
    • (iii) by a teacher in class?
    • (iv) by a husband or wife during an argument with their spouse?
    • (v) in a political discussion on Facebook or Twitter?
  • In what other situations could this method be deployed?
  • What are the potential advantages and disadvantages of the Socratic method?

e. Here is a description by the writer and corporate trainer Dale Carnegie regarding ‘the secret of Socrates’. In what ways does this approach differ from that of the therapist and speaker in the videos above?

His whole technique, now called the “Socratic method,” was based upon getting a “yes, yes” response. He asked questions with which his opponent would have to agree. He kept on winning one admission after another until he had an armful of yeses. He kept on asking questions until finally, almost without realizing it, his opponents found themselves embracing a conclusion they would have bitterly denied a few minutes previously.

The next time we are tempted to tell someone he or she is wrong, let’s remember old Socrates and ask a gentle question – a question that will get the “yes, yes” response.

Dale Carnegie (1937): ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’.