Asking great questions is a critical key to excellent conversation and fruitful communication. Great questions create a connection that keeps the dialogue focused, intentional and moving toward greater clarity and understanding. However, the kind of questions you ask will determine the quality of the response. For example, a closed question invites a one-word response and nothing further.
To illustrate, a closed question to your child would be, “Did you get your homework done?” You likely will get a yes or a no response. The conversation is over. Sometimes, a one-word response is all that you need. But, if you want that conversation with your child to go deeper, you will ask an open-ended question, “How did things go with your home work today?” Now, the conversation can develop into whether or not it was started, completed, if the child is struggling, needs your help, or whatever.
Open-ended questions are extremely important for building closer relationships. If you only want to have arms-length relationships with strangers, stay with closed questions: What, When, Who, How Much, How Many?, etc. Those questions are fine for outsiders and gathering facts. But they don’t build intimacy and depth in your relationships or your team.
The advantage of open-ended questions is that they encourage thought and reflection, elicit description and enable self-disclosure.
Here are some examples for you to try today:
- How did that make you feel?
- Help me to understand how…or help me understand why…?
- What did you learn through that experience?
- Knowing what you know now, what would you change in the future?
- How does this connect you to the big picture of what you want to accomplish?
- How can you be so stupid? (Just kidding about that one. I’m seeing if you are awake! 🙂
- What do you see as your options?
- What are your next steps?
- What is one way I can assist you in accomplishing your goals?
I’m sure you can think of many more open-ended questions to use in a variety of settings you will encounter today. The important part is that you become aware of the kinds of questions that lead to the end of a conversation as compared to the type that grow toward more dialogue. If you want to grow your relationships, there is definitely an advantage to open-ended questions.
QUESTION: What additional advantages to open-ended questions would you suggest? Share them in the Comment section. Thanks!
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