All questions are not created equal. Some are more powerful than others – opening up new learning, insight, and discovery. Yet we often just ask whatever pops to mind, having rarely if ever considered how to craft a good question. (One of the things for which I’m most thankful to The Center for Coaching Excellence is their instruction on how to ask better questions. Good question-asking did not come naturally for me…I had a lot to learn!)
There is a craft – an intentionality – to asking great questions. Remembering the following two statements will propel you forward in that craft.
1. The best questions are open-ended questions. Open-ended questions leave the door open so a conversation can carry on in any number of directions, depending on where the respondent chooses to take it. They are easily recognized in contrast to closed questions, which elicit a limited “yes” or “no” response. Here are some examples:
2. The best questions are asked for the sake of the other.
Have you ever reflected upon why you ask the questions you do? Questions can be self-serving or others-serving, rooted in curiosity or in wonder.
Learning to ask wonder-based, others-serving questions is a way to love others through communication. These self-giving questions are part of what I call “conversational hospitality,” because they make room for the other.
How to change your closed questions to open-ended questions:
There is a place for asking closed questions – sometimes we need them in order to gather critical information (“Did you remember to buy the milk at the store”). But when we’re trying to have meaningful conversations, it’s open-ended questions that will do the most good.
Here’s a quick tip for how to open up your questions and change your conversations for the better.
If you do these two things, this you’ll be well on your way to asking great questions. Give it a try and let me know what happens!