When a Simple Question is Wrong

Walking back from lunch I dealt with the phenomenon that all New Yorkers hate: Street Petitioners. This young man was extremely nice and represented his organization well. But he had no shot the moment he opened his mouth.

"Do you have a moment...."

It didn't matter what he said next. It could have been "....to help teach kids how to sell lemonade without running into the regulatory enforcement of a bloated government?" and I still would have given the response that I give every single time:


By asking a question that allows for a thoughtless one word answer, the opportunity to engage me on their topic of choice was lost.  But, if instead, he'd asked me "What are you thoughts on...." or "When was the last time this issue...." and forced me to give more thought to it, I might have slowed down long enough to know what it was that he was asking.

I know how hard it is to create a conversation out of thin air, but the opening line is the one that matters the most and gives the petitioner and the hustler a chance at seeing results instead of rolled eyes.