Defending the Faith Part 8: The Power of Columbo

| Saturday, July 30, 2011 | 0 comments |
by Greg Koukl

Once you’ve learned the Columbo tactic, you’ll be amazed at how deftly you can navigate through a discussion. Many people you talk to will struggle when you turn the tables and they’re being asked to provide evidence for their views. They will try to change the subject or simply reassert their views, sometimes because they haven’t thought much about the issue you’re discussing. Dodging your question may be their only recourse.

It is critical that you “narrate the debate” at this point. Take a moment to stop and describe what’s going on in the conversation. This will help your friend (and others listening in) to see how she’s gotten off course. You can say, “Hold on. First you made a fairly controversial statement, which I challenged you to clarify and defend. So far, you haven’t done that. You’ve just taken off in another direction. Before we move on to a new topic, can we finish this one?”

Don’t let your friend get off the hook by dodging the issues. This approach keeps the pressure on while keeping the conversation cordial. Encourage your opponent to clarify herself. Forcing her to face the music may be the first step toward a change of mind.

The Columbo tactic can also help keep you out of the “hot seat.” Sometimes the fear of getting in over our heads is enough to keep us from saying anything at all. We especially dread the possibility of some aggressive critic blasting us with arguments, opinions, or information we are not equipped to handle.

The Columbo tactic questions help control the conversation when you fear being overmatched by the person opposing you. To buy yourself some thinking time, simply switch into fact-finding mode. Begin by slowing them down with, “Hold on a minute; this is new to me.” Next say, “I want to understand your point, so can you carefully tell me what you believe and why you believe it?” (the first two Columbo questions.) Finish by saying, “Then let me think about it.” Then work on the issue later at your leisure when the pressure is off.

Think for a moment how useful this approach is. Instead of trying to resist the force of another’s attack, practice a little verbal Aikido; just step aside and let him barge right in. Give him the floor and invite him to make his case. However, he must do it slowly and carefully so you’ll have an opportunity to fully understand his point.

When you are being overwhelmed, this move to fact-finding mode takes you completely out of the hot seat. It deftly shifts control of the conversation back to you while shifting the spotlight and the pressure back on him. You are no longer under any obligation to answer, refute, or even respond because you’ve already said you need to give the issue more thought.

This is easy. Essentially you’re saying, “Oh, you want to beat me up? Fine with me. Just do it slowly and thoroughly.” This is a move that even the most delicate, retiring, shy, bashful, skittish, timid, or reserved personality can employ with great effect.

The advantage of the Columbo tactic is not having to assert something you want someone else to believe in. You aren’t taking the burden of proof on yourself. Instead, your question makes the point for you. This accomplishes your goal in an entirely different and much more powerful way.

Next time: The art of asking questions

For more extensive tactics training go to and look for Tactics in Defending the Faith Mentoring Series or STRi DVD interactive training in our online store or call Stand to Reason at 1-800-2-REASON.

Three sons strangle mom on Christmas over Yahtzee

| Thursday, July 28, 2011 | 0 comments |
by Pat Pheifer

Tamara Lee Mason wanted to play Yahtzee with her three sons after they all returned home from Christmas dinner at a friend's. When the boys wouldn't, she got mad, grabbed a few things and stormed out of the house.

That's the story Mason's oldest, Dylan C. Clemens, told investigators back on Dec. 27, according to criminal charges filed in Stevens County District Court. A much stranger story is laid out in criminal charges filed Tuesday against Clemens, 25. His half-brothers Andrew Q. Cobb, 18, and Jacob S. Cobb, 17, were charged Friday.

Mason's decomposing remains were found Thursday buried in the back yard of her home in Alberta, a town of about 130 people in far western Minnesota.

The charges said Jacob Cobb strangled his mother on the living room floor. Then he or his brother Andrew put a plastic bag over her head and tightened a belt around her neck. Clemens allegedly drove her body west to South Dakota, then east to Glenwood, Minn., before storing the corpse in a garbage can in a shed for months until the ground thawed enough for the two elder brothers to bury it.


Poverty in the US: Cell Phones, Cable TV, and Xbox

| Wednesday, July 27, 2011 | 0 comments |
by Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield

For decades, the U.S. Census Bureau has reported that over 30 million Americans were living in “poverty,” but the bureau’s definition of poverty differs widely from that held by most Americans. In fact, other government surveys show that most of the persons whom the government defines as “in poverty” are not poor in any ordinary sense of the term. The overwhelming majority of the poor have air conditioning, cable TV, and a host of other modern amenities. They are well housed, have an adequate and reasonably steady supply of food, and have met their other basic needs, including medical care. Some poor Americans do experience significant hardships, including temporary food shortages or inadequate housing, but these individuals are a minority within the overall poverty population. Poverty remains an issue of serious social concern, but accurate information about that problem is essential in crafting wise public policy. Exaggeration and misinformation about poverty obscure the nature, extent, and causes of real material deprivation, thereby hampering the development of well-targeted, effective programs to reduce the problem.


First Lady Now Requires 26 Servants

| Tuesday, July 26, 2011 | 0 comments |
by Dr. Paul L. Williams

“In my own life, in my own small way, I have tried to give back to this country that has given me so much,” she said. “See, that’s why I left a job at a big law firm for a career in public service,”— Michelle Obama.

We were wrong.

Michelle Obama, as we reported on July 7, is not served by twenty-two attendants who stand by to cater to her every whim.

She is served by twenty-six attendants, including a hair dresser and make-up artist.

The annual cost to taxpayers for such unprecedented attention is approximately $1,750,000 without taking into account the expense of the lavish benefit packages afforded to every attendant.


Labor’s new strategy: Intimidation for dummies

| Monday, July 25, 2011 | 0 comments |
by F. Vincent Vernuccio

In the past decade, unions have become increasingly desperate to obtain new dues-paying members. An example of how desperate can be found in a 70-plus-page intimidation manual from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which only recently came to light in a pending court case.

The new union tactic is to use pressure on corporate boardrooms as a means of organizing entire companies nationwide rather than recruiting workers on a site-by-site basis; in short, to organize employers rather than employees. To create this pressure, unions attempt to push businesses to the edge of bankruptcy, with little regard for the welfare of employer and employee. They attempt to strong-arm businesses into agreeing to take away the secret ballot for employees in union-organizing elections via card check. They also try to force employers to restrict their own speech on union issues so that workers will not get both sides of the story on unionization. Among the SEIU’s demands is that employers agree to bargain only with it, to the exclusion of all other unions, regardless of what workers want.


Roman-era shipwreck reveals ancient medical secrets

| Sunday, July 24, 2011 | 0 comments |
A first-aid kit found on a 2,000-year-old shipwreck has provided a remarkable insight into the medicines concocted by ancient physicians to cure sailors of ailments.

by Nick Squires

A wooden chest discovered on board the vessel contained pills made of ground-up vegetables, herbs and plants such as celery, onions, carrots, cabbage, alfalfa and chestnuts – all ingredients referred to in classical medical texts.

The tablets, which were so well sealed that they miraculously survived being under water for more than two millennia, also contain extracts of parsley, nasturtium, radish, yarrow and hibiscus.

They were found in 136 tin-lined wooden vials on a 50ft-long trading ship which was wrecked around 130 BC off the coast of Tuscany. Scientists believe they would have been used to treat gastrointestinal complaints suffered by sailors such as dysentery and diarrhoea.


Defending the Faith Part 7: Columbo Step Three

| Saturday, July 23, 2011 | 0 comments |
Defending the Faith Part 7: Columbo Step Three:

Exposing a Weakness or Flaw

by Greg Koukl

Knowing what a person believes and why he believes it (things you learned from the first two steps of the Columbo tactic) allows you to ask new questions that challenge that person’s ideas. This is the final stage of Columbo.

The first two questions are somewhat passive, but the third Columbo question takes you on the offensive in an inoffensive way.

The conversation may alert you to some weakness, flaw, or contradiction in the person’s argument that can be exposed and exploited. There is no special formula for making this discovery. You’ll uncover it by listening carefully and then thinking about what was said.

The key to this step is paying close attention to the answer to the question, “How did you come to that conclusion?”

Are there any blatant weaknesses in the view?
Do the conclusions follow from the evidence?
Can you question any underlying assumptions?
Is there a misstep, a non-sequitur, a fallacy, or a failing of some sort?

Address any inconsistency you discover with a question, not a statement.

This step takes more practice than the rest, but in time you will improve. It requires some insight an ability to see the flaws in the argument which is a demanding request. It is easy to “stall out” in the beginning, so don’t be surprised or discouraged.

Once you learn the Colombo tactic, you’ll realize how few people can answer for their views. It’s easy, once you see this happen, to drift into pride and take pleasure in another’s failings. Therefore, take care to show concern for the other person. Establish common ground whenever possible by affirming points of agreement. Encourage the other person to think further on the subject if he or she doesn’t have a satisfactory answer. Assume the same best intentions you’d like others to assume about you when you’re in the hot seat.

Next time: The Power of Columbo

For more extensive tactics training go to and look for Tactics in Defending the Faith Mentoring Series or STRi DVD interactive training in our online store or call Stand to Reason at 1-800-2-REASON.

Tom Herbert's Zero Handicap


Shock Study: U.S. Flag Only Boosts GOP

| Thursday, July 21, 2011 | 0 comments |
by Paul Bedard

Just a brief exposure to an image of the American flag shifts voters, even Democrats, to Republican beliefs, attitudes and voting behavior even though most don't believe it will impact their politics, according to a new two-year study just published in the scholarly Psychological Science.

What's more, according to three authors from the University Chicago, Cornell University and Hebrew University, the impact had staying power.

"A single exposure to an American flag resulted in a significant increase in participants' Republican voting intentions, voting behavior, political beliefs, and implicit and explicit attitudes, with some effects lasting 8 months," the study found. "These results constitute the first evidence that nonconscious priming effects from exposure to a national flag can bias the citizenry toward one political party and can have considerable durability."


Stop The Global Warming Lies

| Wednesday, July 20, 2011 | 0 comments |
by Jim Lacey

Whether it’s energy policy, global warming, or nuclear waste, if our regulators get the wrong answer, they make one up.

Effective policy cannot be built on lies and myths. But when it comes to energy policy that seems to be all we have to go on. A report recently released by the EPA, for instance, claims that by 2020 regulations enacted under the Clean Air Act will provide an annual benefit of $2 trillion for a cost of $66 billion, a 30-to-1 return on investment. And that is the EPA’s low estimate. In a best-case scenario, the benefits could reach as high as $5.5 trillion, a 90-to-1 return, or $48,000 for every American household. Where do I go for my check?

Unfortunately, the EPA is lying. Not about everything: The $66 billion cost is real, though probably low-balled. EPA regulations will most definitely remove that $66 billion from the economy, making it unavailable for job-creating investment. But what of the $2 trillion in benefits? According to analysis by economists W. David Montgomery and Anne E. Smith, these gains are an illusion. The $2 trillion figure was based on nothing more than a survey asking Americans how much they would pay to live an extra few weeks or months, or to have a little extra visibility on a clear day.

The EPA estimate, therefore, has nothing to do with job creation, economic growth, or real economic output. It has everything to do with hiding the fact that EPA regulations will place a crushing burden on the economy. The EPA knows this. In fact, in the same report that purports to prove that we all gain from more regulations, there is a real macroeconomic study, one done by EPA economists rather than policy officials. They find that past EPA rules slowed the economy by $79 billion in 2010, and will slow it by $110 billion in 2020.

Poof! In the EPA’s own report a $2 trillion annual benefit turns into a $110 billion annual loss. That is a lot of jobs.

The lies and myth-making do not end there. Last month the infamous Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) once again let its global-warming agenda get ahead of the facts. The IPCC claimed that “Close to 80 percent of the world’s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies.”

We had to wait a few weeks for the supporting evidence. It turns out that to get to that 80 percent number the folks at the IPCC threw out 163 scenarios where their models did not give them the answer they wanted. Only on the 164th try did they finally get an answer they liked. Moreover, the report the IPCC used as the basis for its claim turns out to have been written by Greenpeace activists in conjunction with a lobbying group for renewable energy. No real scientists or engineers were involved. But the story gets even better. For the IPCC model to work, they researchers had to assume the world will be using less energy in 2050 than it is today. By that date there may be 2 billion more people on the planet, all clamoring for their fair share of energy resources. But somehow the IPCC thinks we will be using less energy!


America Meets 90% of Karl Marx’s Demands

| Monday, July 18, 2011 | 0 comments |
by Terresa

The 10 planks of communism by Karl Marx:

1. Abolition of private property in land and application of all rents of land to public purpose.

Author’s Comment: This is where eminent domain comes into the picture, and even property taxes. Once you own your property outright by paying off your mortgage, you still don’t technically own it because the government could jack up property taxes so high that it makes it unaffordable to remain.

2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

Comment: Marginal tax rates increasing as income goes up IS a graduated income tax. This is in opposition to a more fair tax like a national sales tax or flat tax where a person is not taxed at a higher rate the more income they earn.

3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.

Comment: In the U.S. these can be seen as estate taxes (i.e. the death tax).

4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

Comment: This is nothing more than government seizures, IRS property confiscation and the 1997 Crime/Terrorist bill which calls for the imprisonment of terrorists (not such a bad thing), but also for those who speak out against the government.


Buzz Aldrin Punches Moon Conspiracy Stalker

| Sunday, July 17, 2011 | 0 comments |
74 Year-Old Former Astronaut Buzz Aldrin
Punches Moon Conspiracy Stalker In The Face

Mythbusters Moon Hoax Photo Explanations

Would You Give Up The Internet For 1 Million Dollars?


Defending the Faith Part 6: The Professor's Ploy

| Saturday, July 16, 2011 | 0 comments |
by Greg Koukl

When executing the burden of proof tactic, beware of the “professor’s ploy.”

Some professors are fond of taking pot-shots at Christianity with remarks like, “The Bible is just a bunch of fables,” even if the topic matter has nothing to do with religious issues.

Well-meaning believers sometimes take the challenge and attempt a head-to-head duel with the professor, but this approach is rarely successful.

One rule of engagement governs exchanges like these: The person with the microphone wins. Never attempt a frontal assault on a superior force. The professor always has the strategic advantage, and he knows it.

Don’t get into a power play when you’re out-gunned. There’s a better way. Don’t disengage; instead, use your tactics. Raise your hand and ask, “Professor, what do you mean by that?” Next ask, “How did you reach that conclusion?” Make the teacher and the one making the claim shoulder the burden of proof.

This approach enables you to stay engaged while deftly sidestepping the power struggle. The “professor’s ploy” comes into play when he attempts to make you shoulder the burden of proof. He may sense your maneuver and respond by saying, “You must be one of those Christians who thinks the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Okay, since I’m a fair man, why don’t you prove that to the rest of the class?”

In one quick move, he’s cleverly switched the burden of proof back on you, the student. Don’t fall for this unfair move! You aren’t the one making a claim; he is. He must defend his own claim. He’s the teacher, after all.

You can respond to the professor’s ploy with dignity and tact. When he shifts the burden of proof on you, calmly respond by saying, “Professor, first, I haven’t revealed anything about my views. Second, my views don’t really matter right now. You’re the teacher and you’ve made a strong claim about the Bible. I’m just trying to learn your reasons for it.”

If he gives an answer, thank him for it and either ask him another question or let it go. Recognize that the burden of proof tactic takes the pressure off you but still keeps you in the driver’s seat. You don’t have to be the expert on every subject.

If you keep the burden on the other side when they’re making the claim, you don’t have to have all the answers. In fact, you can be effective even when you know very little if you ask the right questions.

Next time: How to properly exploit a weakness in an argument

For more extensive tactics training go to and look for Tactics in Defending the Faith Mentoring Series or STRi DVD interactive training in our online store or call Stand to Reason at 1-800-2-REASON.

Jack Van Impe on Robert Schuller, Self-Esteem and the Truth


Texas executes murderer/rapist. Final words: “Viva Mexico!”

| Thursday, July 14, 2011 | 0 comments |
by Michael Graczyk

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A Mexican national was executed Thursday for the rape-slaying of a teenager after the U.S. Supreme Court turned down an appeal to spare him that was supported by Mexico and the White House.

In his last minutes, Humberto Leal repeatedly said he was sorry and accepted responsibility.

"I have hurt a lot of people. ... I take full blame for everything. I am sorry for what I did," he said in the death chamber.

"One more thing," he said as the drugs began taking effect. Then he shouted twice, "Viva Mexico!"


Now that we have change, where's the hope?


The Rise Of Chrislam

| Wednesday, July 13, 2011 | 0 comments |
by Chad Groening

A Protestant renewal organization is concerned about the recent efforts of some mainline Protestant churches to produce an ecumenical reconciliation between Christianity and Islam.

According to a recent blog post from The Last Crusade, congregations in several metropolitan areas -- Houston, Atlanta, Seattle, and Detroit -- preached sermons and held Sunday school lessons recently on the founder of Islam, Mohammad, whom Muslims consider a prophet. Qurans were also placed in the pews next to Bibles.

Proponents of the movement, which has been dubbed "Chrislam," claim that Christians cannot love their neighbors without having a relationship with them.


Warren Buffett’s foolproof plan to wipe out the deficit


Waterboarding for Dummies

| Monday, July 11, 2011 | 0 comments |

Inmate files lawsuit for being denied pornography

by Associated Press
MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. — A Michigan jail inmate says he’s being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment because he can’t have pornography.

In a handwritten lawsuit, 21-year-old Kyle Richards claims his civil rights are being violated at the Macomb County Jail. Richards says denying his request for erotic material subjects him to a “poor standard of living” and “sexual and sensory deprivation.”


Why I Left Islam - Naeem

| Sunday, July 10, 2011 | 0 comments |

Veterans Affairs Bans Mention of God at Veterans Funerals

by Liberty Institute

Liberty Institute, on behalf of the Veterans of Foreign Wars District 4, The American Legion Post 586, and the National Memorial Ladies, just returned to federal court with new allegations of religious hostility and unlawful censorship by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and its director of the Houston National Cemetery. The VA has forbidden mention of God at veterans' funerals, and now requires prayers to be sent in writing for approval. Additionally, volunteers were told to remove "God bless" from condolence cards to grieving families. Last month, Liberty Institute successfully represented Houston pastor Scott Rainey in the same federal court after Houston VA officials tried to prevent him from praying in Jesus’ name at a Memorial Day ceremony.


Defending the Faith Part 5: Columbo Step Two

| Saturday, July 9, 2011 | 0 comments |
Defending the Faith Part 5: Columbo Step Two:

“How did you come to that conclusion?”

by Greg Koukl

The first application of the Columbo tactic helped you understand what a person thinks; the second application known as reversing the burden of proof helps you learn why they think the way they do.

The burden of proof is the responsibility someone has to defend or give evidence for his or her view. The burden of proof has one cardinal rule: Whoever makes the claim bears the burden. Don’t allow yourself to be thrust into a defensive position when the other person is making the claim.

This rule means there are no more free rides. It isn’t the Christian’s responsibility to refute every story a nonbeliever can spin or every claim he can manufacture. When your opponent advances a view, make him or her defend it. Steer the burden of proof back on their shoulders, where it belongs. Make them give you their arguments, not just their points of view.

In the immortal words of Ricky Ricardo from I Love Lucy, “they’ve got a lot of ‘splaining to do!”

The second Columbo question enforces the burden of proof rule: “Now, how did you come to that conclusion?” This question graciously assumes that the non-believer has actually reached a conclusion that he has reasons for his view and has not merely asserted it carte-blanche.

It will give him a chance to express his rationale, if he has one. It will also give you more material to work with in addressing his objections. It ultimately shifts the burden of proof to the other person, which is where it often belongs.

Since many people have never thought through their views and don’t know why they hold them, don’t be surprised if you get a blank stare after asking this question. Alternate options are, “Why do you say that?” or “What are your reasons for holding that view?”

Sometimes the simplest, most effective question you can ask someone is a variation of the question, “How do you know?” This tactic can also take the form of the following questions:

“Why should I believe what you believe?”
“What makes you think that’s the right way to see it?”
“I’m curious. Why would you say a thing like that?”
“Why should I trust that your organization, the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith, the Watchtower speaks for God?”

We can spend hours helping someone carefully work through an issue without ever mentioning God, Jesus, or the Bible. This doesn’t mean we aren’t advancing the Kingdom, though. It’s always a step in the right direction when we help people to discover truth. It gives them tools to assess the bigger questions that will eventually come up.

Further, when we challenge people to think carefully, we acknowledge they bear the image of God. This affirms their intrinsic worth. For a discussion on the value of human beings apart from the cross, see the commentary “Gospel Fodder.”

Remember: The two most important questions you can ever ask are, “What do you believe?” and “Why do you believe it?”

Next time: The Professor's Ploy

For more extensive tactics training go to and look for Tactics in Defending the Faith Mentoring Series or STRi DVD interactive training in our online store or call Stand to Reason at 1-800-2-REASON.

Black & Beautiful: pro-life billboard ads labeled racist


Convict sues jail for $50 million...for calling him an "inmate"

| Friday, July 8, 2011 | 0 comments |
by Daily Mail Reporter

The family of a convicted killer is suing New York state for $50 million, saying he is being 'stigmatised' by being called an 'inmate'.

Gerard Domond, 49, says the term implies he was 'mating with other men' in his lawsuit against the state.

The Domond family want the state to stop calling him an 'inmate' as the term hurts his feelings causing him 'mental anguish.'


Wizard Of Id Parody


Andrew Klavan: Why Do Blacks Vote for Democrats?

| Thursday, July 7, 2011 | 0 comments |

The Netherlands to Abandon Multiculturalism

by Soeren Kern

The Dutch government says it will abandon the long-standing model of multiculturalism that has encouraged Muslim immigrants to create a parallel society within the Netherlands.

A new integration bill (covering letter and 15-page action plan), which Dutch Interior Minister Piet Hein Donner presented to parliament on June 16, reads: "The government shares the social dissatisfaction over the multicultural society model and plans to shift priority to the values of the Dutch people. In the new integration system, the values of the Dutch society play a central role. With this change, the government steps away from the model of a multicultural society."

The letter continues: "A more obligatory integration is justified because the government also demands that from its own citizens. It is necessary because otherwise the society gradually grows apart and eventually no one feels at home anymore in the Netherlands. The integration will not be tailored to different groups."


Terror threat -- U.S. churches in danger

| Tuesday, July 5, 2011 | 0 comments |
by Becky Yeh

With the recent airing of an al-Qaeda video that encourages Muslims to attack religious institutions, Christian churches are being warned.

In a video released by al-Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn, the American-born Muslim asks jihadists to quickly obtain guns and carry out terrorist attacks against the West. He states that Muslims are placed in the region to "do major damage to the enemies of Islam, waging war on their religion, sacred places, and things and brethren."

"That's very troubling," admits Steve Amundson of the Florida Security Council. "Adam Gadhan lived here in Southern California for a number of years. He studied under Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi at the Islamic Center of Orange County, which is in Garden Grove."

church steepleGadahn's statements to U.S. Muslims follow the death of Osama bin Laden. In response, the Christian Emergency Network has issued a warning for churches in the United States, and Amundson advises Christians to stay alert.


Economic Freedom & Quality of Life


ACLU Attacks God and Children, Again

| Monday, July 4, 2011 | 0 comments |
by Mark Baisley

Last Tuesday, June 21, 2011, the ACLU filed its latest lawsuit against an American school district for violating their “separation between church and state” mantra. The specific offense is allowing parents to spend vouchers for their children at schools that have a religious foundation.

The famous words, “wall of separation between church and state” came from a letter of assurance from President Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Church. That same letter from Jefferson also includes the sentiments, “I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man.”

And yet, there is no insistence by the courts nor the ACLU that public schools recognize the Father and Creator of man.

Thomas Jefferson was not a fan of having a Bill of Rights in the Constitution.

Yet his unofficial words that were never debated, voted on, nor ratified have become the phrase used to hammer school districts who would dare allow voluntary attendance to schools that acknowledge an intelligent design behind the science that they teach.


Geithner: We Must Tax Small Businesses to Protect Big Gov


Defending the Faith Part 4: Columbo Step One

| Saturday, July 2, 2011 | 0 comments |
Defending the Faith Part 4: Columbo Step One:

“What do you mean by that?”

by Greg Koukl

The first question of the Columbo tactic is to gain information. Sometimes you just need more information to know how to proceed further.

This is the simplest way to use the Columbo tactic. It is virtually effortless, putting no pressure on you at all. When used this way, the questions can buy you valuable time, help you know how to proceed in the conversation, give you information for this and future encounters, and be a casual conversation-starter.

Key question: “What do you mean by that?” (or some variation)

This clarification question tells you what a person thinks so you don’t misunderstand her or, worse, misrepresent her. It should be delivered in a mild, genuinely inquisitive fashion. This question also forces the person to be precise in her meaning, as many people object to Christianity for reasons they don’t completely understand themselves.

This first Columbo question accomplishes five important objectives.

1. It immediately engages the non-believer in an interactive way.
2. It flatters the non-believer because it shows genuine interest in his or her view.
3. It forces the non-believer to think more carefully and more precisely maybe for the first time
about his intended meaning.
4. It gives you valuable information about the non-believer’s exact position.
5. It positions the non-believer in the defensive position while placing you in control of the conversation.

Be sure to pay attention to the response. If it’s unclear, follow up with more questions. Say, “Let me see if I understand you on this…,” then feed back the view to make sure you got it right.

By the way, don’t let them merely repeat what they just said. For example:

“You’re intolerant.”
“What do you mean by the word ‘intolerant’?”
“I mean you are intolerant!”

Sometimes this first Columbo question is directed at a specific statement or topic of conversation. Other times, the question can be more open-ended. As the discussion continues, gently guide the dialogue into a more spiritually productive direction with additional questions.

Learning how to ask this first question is your key to productive conversations, as people often don’t know what they mean by the things they say. Often, they are merely repeating slogans. Frequently, their statements, questions, opinions, or points of view are so muddled it’s impossible to proceed in conversation without clarification. Asking the question “What do you mean by that?” is the simplest way to clear up the confusion, while also giving you time to size up the situation and gather your thoughts.

Do not underestimate the power of this question. Use it often.

You can ask this question all day long and there is absolutely no pressure on you.

In the next email, I'll introduce you to the second Columbo question.

Next week: Columbo - Question Two

For more extensive tactics training go to and look for Tactics in Defending the Faith Mentoring Series or STRi DVD interactive training in our online store or call Stand to Reason at 1-800-2-REASON.

California to Require Gay Agenda in School Textbooks

California to require homosexual/transgender
Americans added to school textbooks