People feel the intent of the question, regardless of the word choice or content.
“Can you help me understand the numbers?” can be an authentic, even humble question. Or, it can be a passive-aggressive bomb.
“Were you invited to the meeting?” can be a question that elevates one’s sense of value. Or, it can be a question that elevates one’s sense of being excluded.
“What gift amount were you thinking of proposing to this donor?” can be perceived as an unassuming invitation to brainstorm. Or, it can be perceived as a “gotcha” trap if you don’t have the right response.
People will answer the feeling the question gives them, far more often than the words being asked.
The best leaders ask tough questions. But, they do so in ways that make people feel as though they are being invited and welcomed into deeper conversation.