Skip to main content

The Columbo Tactic by Greg Koukle

By May 17, 2010September 26th, 2020No Comments


Using simple, leading questions is an almost effortless way to introduce spiritual topics to a conversation without seeming abrupt.  At STR we call this the “Columbo” tactic, named after the bumbling and seemingly inept TV detective whose remarkable success was based on an innocent query: “Do you mind if I ask you a question?”

“Columbo” is most powerful if you have a game plan for the conversation.  Generally when I ask a question I have a goal in mind.  I’m alerted to some weakness, flaw, or contradiction in another’s view that I want to expose in a disarming way.

Other times the question is an open-ended “What do you mean by that?” delivered in a mild, genuinely inquisitive fashion.  The general topic can be anything broadly related to spiritual things.  Then begin to probe with questions, gently guiding the conversation in a more spiritually productive direction.

The follow-up question, “How did you come to that conclusion?,” graciously assumes the non-Christian has reasons for her view and is not just emoting.  It gives her a chance to express her rationale (if she has one), giving you more material to work with.

Occasionally someone will quip, “I don’t have any reasons; I just believe it,” to which I ask, “Why would you believe something when you have no reason to think it’s true?”  This is a genuine—and very appropriate—question.  And it’s simple.

You may not always have an answer, but you can always ask a question especially a well-placed one.

That’s the value of the Columbo tactic.

Leave a Reply