Whether in business, your personal life or debt collection, it takes three levels of questions to get to the raw truth. I would like to share with you something that has taken me many years to learn but I think will be very valuable to you in your personal, business and debt collection life. It’s the “theory of three”.
The first answer you get from anyone is not necessarily the full and complete truth. It takes further probing to find out exactly what the truth is. Let me give you an example:
Let’s say you’re probing your eight-year-old son about a broken lamp in the house. You ask him directly “how did the lamp get broken, Bobby?”
His first answer is “I don’t know”. So you Ask the next question “was anybody else in the house except you ?” He answers “no”. So you ask again “how did the lamp get broken” and Bobby says “I tripped over the cord, I’m sorry”.
The human mind is trained at a young age to avoid confrontation, so often the first answer is one that is nonconfrontational. Lawyers are trained this principle early so when interviewing a witness they often asked the same question five different times, five different ways?
I’ve found also this to be the case with employees as well. What you’re trying to do is to acquire information, provide training or teach job processes often things have to be repeated or further questions have to be asked.
In the case of debt collection the first time we ask for the money, we often get the answer “I don’t have it.” As we continue to probe we find more information which leads us to a payment. For example the second question may be , “are you employed?” The answer may lead to further information that will lead to the third question like “do you have a 401K?” and possibly a payment arrangement.
But that doesn’t mean you need to ask all three questions too rapidly. Often debt collectors move from the first question to the second question far too quickly. For example many collectors move from the question of “can you pay the balance in full today?” to offering a settlement and then monthly arrangements all in one breath. This is not a good example of the rule of three, good luck.