How to Ask Intelligent Questions With Impact

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Guest Post by Gary Lockwood

How would you like a magic way to influence people to do whatever you want them to do? This technique uses win-win psychology. It gives you the power to arrange events to your satisfaction. It puts almost any resource or person at your service to help you get whatever you want. It gets you the helpful counsel of leaders.

The entire medical profession uses this technique. Educators, business leaders, salespeople, researchers, scientists and even business coaches use this method. What is this magic performance tool?

ASKING QUESTIONS

“Ask and you shall receive” says the Bible. Ask, and every human being has been conditioned to do what they are asked to do, say the psychologists. Ask, and according to the law of averages, you’ll get enough “yes’s” to guarantee your success, say the sales managers.

Ask important people any sensible, relevant question, for their opinion, advice, for a favor or anything that will enable you to meet them; then make sure they know who you are, and maintain your contact so they remember you. Ask “How can we do this better?” Ask “How can we do more?” Ask “How can we serve our clients better?” If you don’t have answers to these questions, find someone who does and ask them.

There are thousands of examples to prove that asking good questions is one of the most important success secrets. Asking is the quickest, easiest and surest ways to get people to do what you want them to do. Why does this work? Why do people tend to do what you ask them to do? Why is it that people who have no interest in you use their time and energy to furnish you with information just because you asked them for it? Because people are conditioned from childhood to respond to polite questions. If you ask intelligent questions with impact, almost everyone will answer you.

The other significant reason to ask good questions is to help the person you are asking. Asking well-crafted, intelligent questions causes people to think profoundly. When someone thinks more deeply than before, new ideas, new answers and new possibilities emerge.

Years ago, as a business consultant, I took pride in always having an answer. Now I realize that in our fast-moving, mile-a-minute world, answers have a very short shelf-life. Having the right questions is more important and more valuable.

In my practice as a business coach, one of my most important roles is to ask questions that cause my clients to consider possibilities they have not yet explored. Asking relevant questions of my clients is like holding up a mirror to their actions and decisions so they can see for themselves whether it is the right thing to do.

How do you ask good questions? I’m glad you asked. Here are a few pointers. First, choose the appropriate type of question to ask. Questions can be categorized into two basic groups, open and closed.

Ask OPEN questions when you want to engage the other person in conversation.

Open questions literally “open up” the dialogue. Open questions require more than a word or two to answer adequately.

Open questions generally begin with “What” “How” “Who” “When” “Why”. Be careful when asking “Why” questions. Too many can come across as confrontational.

Open questions come in different types:

  • Subjective questions – use these when you ask for an opinion.
    • “What do you think about……?”
    • “What are his qualifications?”
    • “How do you feel about…….?”
  • Objective questions – these are to ask for specific information.
    • “What evidence did the police have?”
    •  “How have you been handling this process?”
    • “What factors are necessary to raise your CSI?”
  • Problem Solving questions – ask these when you want action ideas.
    • “What should you do next?”
    • “How would you implement the steps we just discussed?”

Use CLOSED questions when you want to inhibit long discussion.

Closed questions can be answered adequately in only a few words. Closed questions often begin with “Are” “Can” “Did” “Do” etc.

Closed questions also come in different types:

  • Identification question
    • “What kind of car is this?”
    • “Who is responsible for this…?”
  • Selection question (these are either / or)
    • “Are closed or open questions better at promoting discussion?”
    • “Who is right, the manager or the dealer?”
  • Yes/No question
    • “Does this client have the documentation on the LOMAC project?”
    • “Has the questioning process been presented to the managers?”

So here’s the formula: 

  • When you want short, crisp answers, ask closed questions.
  • When you want a discussion, ask open questions. If you want to shorten the discussion, ask a closed question.
  • When you desire a narrative, use an open question.

The most common mistake in asking questions is to ask a closed question when you actually want the other person to expound. For example, “ Will you tell me about your vacation?” This is technically a closed question, designed for a yes or no answer. Fortunately, in our culture, most people will give you a polite answer even when you ask the wrong type of question.

Asking the correct type and style of question makes it easier for the people around you to provide the appropriate answer. When you ask wise questions, others will applaud your insight and your understanding, even when they are doing most of the talking. Sincere questions are a great conversation starter. Good questions are good for everyone involved.

Here is a parting question for you to ponder; “What could you personally gain by asking intelligent questions with impact?”

Gary LockwoodGary Lockwood is an experienced business coach, facilitator and speaker. He specializes in helping business professionals achieve breakthroughs in their business.  Gary has over thirty years of experience in the business world, including sales and marketing, technology, management consulting, business planning and corporate training. He has held senior executive positions in several companies and has started a few successful companies of his own.  You can connect with Gary @ BizSuccess.com