In this article, we will review some specific questioning techniques that you can use in your communications with co-workers and others.
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Open questions get their name because the response is open-ended; the answerer has a wide range of options to choose from when answering it. Open-ended questions will often help you determine or “un-cover” the real reasons behind why a specific situation is the way it is.
Open questions use one of six words as a root:
Open questions are like going fishing with a net – you never know what you’re going to catch! Open-ended questions are great conversation starters, fact finders, and communication enhancers. Use them in conjunction with active listening skills like paraphrasing to be an even more effective communicator.
Closed questions are the opposite of open questions; their very structure limits the answer to yes or no, or a specific piece of information. Some examples include:
- Do you have a university degree?
- Were you born in December?
- How many staff do you manage?
Although closed-ended questions tend to shut down communication, they can be useful if you are searching for a particular piece of information, or coming to the end of the conversation.
If you use a closed-ended question and it shuts down the conversation, simply use an open-ended question to get things started again. Here is an example:
- Do you manage staff?
- What is your favourite aspect of this role?
In addition to the basic open-ended and closed-ended questions, there is also an array of probing questions that you can also use. These questions can be open-ended or closed-ended, but each type serves a specific purpose.
By probing for clarification, you invite the other person to share more information so that you can fully understand their message. Clarification questions often look like this:
- “Please tell me more about…”
- “What did you mean by…”
- “What does … look like?” (Any of the five senses can be used here)
Completeness and Correctness
These types of questions can help you ensure you have the full, true story. Having all the facts, in turn, can protect you from making assumptions and jumping to conclusions; two fatal barriers to good communication.
Some examples of these questions include:
- “What else happened after that?”
- “Did that end the …”
This category will help you determine how or if a particular point is related to the conversation at hand. It can also help you get the speaker back on track from a tangent.
Some good ways to frame relevance questions are:
- “How is that like…”
- “How does that relate to…”
Use these types of questions to nail down vague statements. Useful helpers include:
- “What do you mean by…?”
- “Could you please give an example?”
These questions are framed more like a statement. They pull together all the relevant points. They can be used to confirm to the listener that you heard what was said, and to give them an opportunity to correct any misunderstandings.
Example: “So you chose a new employee, conducted 3 interviews, and they still turned down the role?”
Be careful not to avoid repeating the speaker’s words back to them like a parrot. Remember, paraphrasing means repeating what you think the speaker said in your own words to get clarification.
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