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The Columbo Method – How to diffuse any situation

by | Feb 16, 2010

Remember Peter Falk? He’s an actor best known for his role as Lieutenant Columbo in the TV series Columbo. As the star of that 1970’s show, he was “everyone’s favorite rumpled television detective”, writes historian David Fantle. The beauty of Columbo was watching how he unraveled the mysteries and crimes.

His method – asking insightful questions in a humble manner.

Yesterday I had lunch with a very successful client. He said, “Karen, I use the Columbo Method to negotiate, sell, and diffuse any situation.” I commented, “I’ve watched Peter Falk wearing his wrinkled raincoat in Columbo and always liked him.” He said, “Exactly! He solved the crime, and got people to tell him everything. Even the bad guys trusted him… until they lost the game.”

My client explained, “Columbo got the job done by asking these three questions. And I use those same questions to diffuse anger, get agreement, get the sale, talk to my teenage daughter …whatever.”

Here are my client’s Columbo Method Three Questions:
1. What did you mean by that? (Allows the other person to further explain the situation)
2. How did you come to that conclusion? Or – What makes you think that way? (This allows you to really get inside the other person’s head)
3. Have you ever considered __________ Or – Another way to look at this is ___________ and you fill in this blank with your alternative solution.

Good luck in solving your next crime or negotiating your next deal!


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