How can you use better questions to get more from your conversations?



There's no such thing as a wrong question! The person on the receiving end of the question will soon tell you if you’re way off the mark, just try it!


Every question and response lead us somewhere. Sometimes people are clear about what they don’t want, so the ‘wrong’ question can help them to discover what the opposite of that is, or what their motivation is. If, for example they say they' don't want to manage people like their old boss did' then you can start with this 'don't want' statement and turn it into a positive statement, the opposite of what they don't want, with effective questioning.

Effective questioning is a powerful, learned skill that says, ‘I’m interested in working out what you want and how I can help you to get it’.


I’ve put together a few types of frequently used questions, and added some situations where they may be useful, too.


Open

” What happens when you’re stressed?”


Closed

” Do you always give up when you hit a barrier?”


Leading

“So, your old colleagues were a bad influence on you?”


Multiple

“You say you want to be a team leader – is that because you think it will develop your career or is it to keep your boss happy?”


Challenging

“What are the negatives in behaving that way?”


Hypothetical

“If someone were to wave a magic want and grant you your biggest wish – what would it be?”


Rhetorical

“Wasn’t the Speaker at the Conference today inspiring?”


Probing

” Could you give me an example of that?”


Closed

“So, you are saying that you don’t enjoy working with them?”


So, think of the type of question you want to ask; what are you trying to do with that question? Here's a few useful types, and some possible uses to develop your own effective questioning techniques even further:


Open

Gathering information, exploring issues; people talk freely and choose what to tell you


Closed

Checking facts, clarifying details, or checking an opinion; may help to focus the person in being specific


Leading

Confirming facts; may help to focus the person to get a reaction


Multiple

May help the person if they are stuck to think about their options; can provide choice from which they can select a response or narrow down too many options


Challenging

Maximises the chances of getting the person to reflect on and question values or views; prevents interaction from being a nice cosy chat; to get the person to think more about an issue


Hypothetical

For the person to consider other ideas or plans; can help to look further ahead; can be used to explore values and views; may permit the person to answer without personalising the response


Probing

Permits people to tell their story in their own way; to gather detailed information about specific issues; can focus on a person’s thinking and feeling and serve to increase emotional depth


Reflective

Identifies how a person is feeling; helps check understanding; shows active listening and care; less likely to evoke resistance


Rhetorical

Can be useful in starting up a conversation with a person, especially if s/he is reluctant; very non-threatening as the answer is obvious if the person wishes to give one; less likely to evoke resistance


Effective questioning techniques may also include:


 Using a tone of voice that shows interest, concern, and friendliness

 Asking only one question at a time and waiting for the answer – do not be afraid of silence

 Asking questions which encourage the person to talk about their needs, concerns, situations, and feelings

 Using open questions which cannot be answered with 'yes' or 'no’ – to encourage a person to talk more

 Trying to avoid starting questions with 'Why' as it may sound threatening and can be difficult for some people to answer

 Asking questions that can help the person to explore an issue more deeply from all sides

 Asking follow-up questions to explore issues further

 Asking questions which show interest and attention

 Questions formulated with concern for the person's ability to provide an answer

 Questions which are crisp, lean, clearly phrased and focused.


I'm often asked about effective questioning techniques by line managers and leaders in coaching sessions as they are interested in looking for meaning that’s deeper than the spoken message. If you want to develop your questioning techniques or understand the people in your teams then contact me here to book a free discovery call and see if I can help.

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