“Asking good questions is productive, positive, creative, and can get us what we want.”
Most people believe this to be true and yet people do not ask enough good questions. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that effective questioning requires it be combined with effective listening.
Effective questions are questions that are powerful and thought provoking. Effective questions are open-ended and not leading questions. They are not “why” questions, but rather “what” or “how” questions. “Why” questions are good for soliciting information, but can make people defensive so be thoughtful in your use of them. When asking effective questions, it is important to wait for the answer and not provide the answer.
When working with people to solve a problem, it is not enough to tell them what the problem is. They need to find out or understand it for themselves. You help them do this by asking them thought provoking questions. Rather than make assumptions find out what the person you are talking to knows about the problem.
For example: “What do you think the problem is?”
Behind effective questioning is also the ability to listen to the answer and suspend judgment. This means being intent on understanding what the person who is talking is really saying. What is behind their words? Let go of your opinions so that they don’t block you from learning more information. Pay attention to your gut for additional information.
The following are examples of typical questions. These questions can help you improve your communication and understanding of the client or staff member.
What seems to be the trouble?
What do you make of _________?
How do you feel about _____________?
What concerns you the most about _____________?
What seems to be the problem?
What seems to be your main obstacle?
What is holding you back from _________________?
What do you think about doing X this way?
What do you mean by __________?
Tell me more about _______________
What other ways did you try so far?
What will you have to do to get the job done?
How do you want ____________ to turn out?
What do you want?
What is your desired outcome?
What benefits would you like to get out of X?
What do you propose?
What is your plan?
If you do this, how will it affect ________ ?
What else do you need to consider?
What will you do? When will you do it?
How will I know you did it?
What are your next steps?
Note from Bob – The wisdom that Irene has shared here reminds me of something my life long mentor Bobb Biehl shared with me many years ago: “If you ask profound questions, you get profound answers. If you ask shallow questions, you get shallow answers. And if you ask no questions, you get no answers at all.”
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