The Apricot Test, Socrates, and the Art of the Ask – by Matt M.

I work in sales, where one of our favorite phrases is “little hinges swing big doors.” What we mean is that small changes in wording can have huge impacts on response, and more to the point, that you can achieve the response you want in the way you ask the question.

A great illustration of this concept comes in the apricot test. In a survey conducted similarly to Family Feud, questioners asked 100 recipients three questions, all while holding a basket of apricots.

In the first instance, the questioners asked the respondents, “Do you want an apricot?” Ninety people said “no,” with only ten people saying “yes” and taking an apricot.

In the second instance, the questioners asked, “Would you like one apricot or two?” In this case, fifty people said “no,” while fifty said (an equivalent of) “yes.”

In the third instance, the questioners asked, “How many apricots would you like?” In this case, the results from the first question were reversed, with 10 “no” and 90 “yes”.

This experiment shows how the way you ask a question changes the response you get to the question. In every case the question is the same (“I am offering you apricots”), but the results come out completely differently depending on how you ask.

Both the second and the third questions are also examples of Socratic questioning, which is questioning in a way that seeks to elicit a “yes” response. Another example would be, instead of asking, “Are you interested in this?”, to ask, “This is pretty interesting, wouldn’t you agree?”

How do you apply apricots to your dating life? It comes down to the ask. The weak, passive, “good guy” approach will use ineffectual wording, denying the outcome you want most. This approach will ask, “Do you want to go out?” or “Are you interested in seeing where this is going?” Instead of these milquetoast namby-pamby nothings, you should use strong, decisive wording, such as “Does Friday or Saturday work better for you?” or “This is worth exploring in person, isn’t it?”

In the first case, you can almost hear the woman saying “no” before the question is asked—the wording of the question is actually signaling her to do so! If she doesn’t say “no,” she’ll just ghost you, which is its own particular hell. The wording is so weak, it’s almost a red flag if she says “yes,” because why is she so desperate that she’d respond positively to such an unsexy ask? In the second case, the wording is bold and exciting it demands a response—even if neither Friday nor Saturday work, she’s compelled to tell you a day that does. And compare “Are you interested in seeing where this is going?” vs. “This is worth exploring, isn’t it?” The first is a flabby, self-pitying, pre-defeated fart, whereas the second question comes with a frisson of excitement—it’s a declarative statement masquerading as a question. In the second instance, you’re almost already there, in person.

It’s important to remember that in these examples, the same question is being asked! The only thing different are a few keywords. But those little hinges determine whether doors will be opening for you or closing in your face.

(Final side note: In general, it’s best to always avoid a “Do you want…?” construction. It never receives a positive response. Consider “Do you want a blowjob?” or “Do you want a million dollars?” Even here, the question is so off-putting and ineffably wrong that anyone would immediately say, “What? No. No thanks.”)


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