The One Question You Should Never Ask

Bruce Turkel
Speaker, Author & Branding Expert, Bruce Turkel

You might have seen speaker, author, and branding expert, Bruce Turkel before on FOX Business, CNN, ABC, CBS, or NPR… or in the pages of The New York Times, Fast Company, or AdWeek. Bruce is not only a great speaker, his singing makes my eyes water and toes tingle. He is part of the National Speakers Association’s All Star Band. I love his CD The Southbound Suspects. This is from his newsletter and I thought you would enjoy.

The One Question You Should Never Ask

by Bruce Turkel

My friend Phil Allen, brilliant lawyer and blazing lead guitar player for The Southbound Suspects, told me this story:

The defense attorney was questioning the prosecution’s star witness.

“So you say you actually saw my client bite off the victim’s ear in the bar fight?”

“Yes I did,” the witness answered nervously.

“But it’s a big bar, isn’t it? Exactly where were you standing?”

“In the front, over by the door.”

“And where did the fight take place?”

“In the far corner, near the back of the bar.”

“In the back, huh? So how far away do you estimate you were standing?”

“About 150 feet away.”

“And how many people were standing between you and the fight?”

“Oh, at least a 100 or so. The bar was packed.”

“Was there anything else in the way?”

“Yeah, there were a few pool tables too.”

“And the two of them were fighting on the floor, isn’t that right?”

“Yes. They were on the floor and surrounded by a big crowd.”

The defense attorney pulled his full bulk up and out of his chair, straightened his tie, and puffed out his chest:

“So let me make sure I’ve got this right,” he bellowed. “You were in a big bar, at least 150 feet away from my client. There were a few pool tables and 100 people standing between you and the fighters. And they were down on the floor surrounded by a big crowd. And yet you continue to insist that you’re absolutely sure my client bit off the other guy’s ear.

“Yes I am,” the witness answered quietly.

The defense attorney moved in for the coup de grace.

“And just how do you know that for sure?”

“I saw him spit out the ear when he stood up.”

Bam!! You just heard it — the question that should never be asked. The question that negates everything that came before. The question that gives it all away. The question that changes things forever.

Obviously the defense attorney never learned about the two most important words of sales: shut the @$#% up

How many times have you snatched a wet and wiggly defeat from the jaws of victory and talked yourself right out of a sale?

The King James Version of the New Testament says, “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.”

Both Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln have been credited with: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

And Lao Tzu wrote simply, “Silence is a source of great strength.”

Of course it is hard to keep your mouth shut when you’re moving in for the kill. But if we can’t get a better answer than “yes” in the first place, why do we keep pushing for more, especially when we know better?

There’s lots of eloquent advice and stories like Phil’s about the over-eager attorney to remind us to stop before we reach the question you should never ask. But me, I’ll stick with “shut the @$#% up.”

Thank you Bruce!

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