Many of us are unaware of the amazing power of questions. Our conversations may be full of requests and demands, but all too often we are not asking for honest and informative answers, and at times, we don t know how to listen effectively to responses. It is proven that when we start encouraging questions, we will begin to see amazing results.
Knowing the right questions to ask and the right way to listen will give any leader the skills to perform well in any situation, effectively communicate a vision to the team, and achieve lasting success across the organization.
If you ask the wrong questions, you will probably get the wrong answer, or at least not quite what you’re hoping for. Asking the right question is at the heart of effective communications and information exchange. By using the right questions in a particular situation, you can improve a whole range of communications skills.
For example, you can gather better information and learn more, you can build stronger relationships, manage people more effectively, and help others to learn too.
Why Ask Questions?
Although the following list is not exhaustive it outlines the main reasons questions are asked in common situations.
- To obtain information
- To help maintain control of a conversation
- Express an interest in the other person
- To clarify a point
- To explore the personality and or difficulties the other person may have
- To test knowledge
- To encourage further thought
- In group situation
8 Types of Questions To Get Good Results
- Closed questions
Closed, or ‘polar’ questions generally invite a one-word answer, such as ‘yes’ or ‘no’. For example, ‘do you drive?’ or, ‘did you take my pen?’ They could also include answers to factual or multiple-choice questions, such as ‘what’s your name’, or ‘would you like tea, coffee, or water?’
They are popular as icebreaker questions in group situations because they are easy to answer.
Useful for: warming up group discussions, getting a quick answer.
- Open questions
Open-ended questions require a little more thought and generally encourage wider discussion and elaboration. They cannot be answered with a simple yes or no response. For example: ‘what do you think of your boss?’ Or ‘why did you choose that car?’
Useful for: critical or creative discussion, finding out more information about a person or subject
- Probing questions
These questions are useful for gaining clarification and encouraging others to tell you more information about a subject. Probing questions are usually a series of questions that dig deeper and provide a fuller picture. For example: ‘when do you need the finished project, and is it ok if I email it to you?’
Useful for: seeing the bigger picture, encouraging a reluctant speaker to tell you more information, and avoiding misunderstandings.
- Leading questions
These questions are designed to lead the respondent towards a certain desired positive or negative route. Leading questions such as: ‘do you have any issues with the project?’, or ‘did you enjoy working on that project?’
Useful for: building positive discussions, closing a sale, steering a conversation towards an outcome that serves your interest.
- Loaded questions
Loaded questions are seemingly straightforward, closed questions — with a twist: they contain an assumption about the respondent. They’re famously used by lawyers and journalists to trick their interviewee into admitting a fundamental truth they would otherwise be unwilling to disclose.
For example, the question: ‘have you stopped stealing pens?’ assumes the respondent stole a pen more than once.
Useful for: discovering facts about someone who would otherwise be reluctant to offer up the information
- Funnel questions
Funnel questions can also be used to diffuse tension: asking someone to go into detail about their issue distracts them from their anger and gives you the information you need to offer them a solution, which in turn calms them down and makes them think something positive is being done to help them.
Useful for: building relationships, discovering very specific information, diffusing arguments.
- Recall and process questions
Recall questions require the recipient to remember a fact. For example, ‘what’s seven times seven?’ and ‘where did you put the keys?’ or ‘What’s your login password?’ Process questions, on the other hand, require the respondent to add their own opinion to their answer. These types of questions can be used to test the respondent’s depth of knowledge about a particular topic. For example: ‘what are the advantages of asking a closed question?’ or ‘why are you the right person to lead this project?’
Useful for: encouraging critical thought and in-depth evaluation of a subject in tests, interviews or discussions.
- Rhetorical questions
These are a different beast altogether because they don’t really require an answer. They’re simply statements phrased as questions to make the conversation more engaging for the listener, who is drawn into agreeing with you.
For example, ‘isn’t it nice working with such a friendly team?’ is more engaging that ‘this team is friendly’, which doesn’t require any mental participation from the respondent.
Rhetorical questions are often used by coaches or public speakers for effect to get the audience thinking and agreeing. In this way, they’re a not-too-distant cousin of the leading question.
Useful for: persuading people, building engagement.
Asking the right question is at the heart of effective communications and information exchange. By using the right questions in a particular situation, you can improve a whole range of communications skills. It spurs learning and the exchange of ideas, it fuels innovation and performance improvement. It also builds rapport and trust among team members. If you are still not sure on what are the questions best suit different situation, join us on a one-day effective questioning techniques workshop to level up your questioning skills!