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.

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