You read our blog on “Art of Questioning”, in this blog I will be talking about some situation for each technique and with a few examples of each question type.
# Type 1 – Open Question
These questions are used to gather information and are most effective if the conversation is already established. These questions prompt the other person to talk about the topic and provide more information, it elicits longer answers. These questions help the other person articulate their thoughts and also help you understand their perspective, views, feelings and attitude.
Open questions help you develop a conversation; find out more details or perspective of the other person. So start using “tell me” or “describe” or begin with why…?, what…?, where…?, which…? and how…?
But while framing these questions, don’t appear to be judgmental and directive. Example
- What did you do to resolve this issue?
- Tell me what do you think about this?
- How will you describe your current situation?
- Who else might you be able to approach to resolve this issue?
- Describe the circumstances in more details.
# Type 2 – Closed Question
These questions are simple “Yes” or “No” answer with no chance to elaborate the answer. These can be used in reaching to a conclusion or controlling conversation while dealing with an issue. However this limits the gathering of information and fails to explore various different possibilities or perspectives.
In some situations, asking closed questions helps like if we need an affirmative or negative response or if we need to make a decision. Examples of some closed questions that are helpful
- Now as we all are aware of the facts, do we agree that this is the right course of action?
- Where you aware that process had not been followed?
- Are you happy with the service of your bank?
- Were you aware of this situation earlier?
But overuse of closed questions or a misplaced one will kill the conversation or lead to misunderstand or awkward silence.
# Type 3 – Probing Question
These questions involve starting with general question but then homing in on a point in the answer. It helps in drawing out additional information and clarifying if the understanding is correct. It helps in uncovering details.
We need to be extra careful with our body language as more supportive or neutral; otherwise it may come across as interrogation rather than discussion. Some examples of the questions
- What would you have done differently?’
- Could you be more specific?
- Who is involved in this situation?
- When do you need this report by?
- When would you like to see the draft of the same?
An effective way of probing is to use 5 Whys method, this helps you get to the root cause.
# Type 4 – Leading Question
These questions are best used where you need to influence other persons’ thinking or want to lead the person to your way of thinking. They are especially useful in training situations where you can guide the other person to see the importance of performing a task in a set way. We do this by adding our assumptions to the question or phrasing it in a way to elicit the response that we need.
- How late do you think that you can submit the report? (Adding our assumption that the report is late)
- Do you think it will be better to go with option 2? (Phrasing the question to get desired answer “yes” )
- Shouldn’t we have contacted the bank manager instead of reaching to the sales staff? (Adding our personal opinion or option)
These questions helps in getting the desired answer yet making the other person feel that they have had choice. But we need to be cautious because if used in self serving way, then it can be seen as manipulative or dishonest.
# Type 5 – Reflective Question
Use this when you want to review a situation that will enable the other person to reflect on how things could have been done differently. It is like using exactly the same words in your questions that you just heard which gives the other person the opportunity to explore their perspective or knowledge about the situation. For example
- You mentioned that the situation as “frustrating”, why is that?
- I heard you say that your team is “under performing”, why do you think so?
# Type 6 – Clarifying Question
This technique is very useful when we need to check the other person’s understanding or clarify it. It’s done by paraphrasing and repeating back the key points. This helps in drawing the agenda item and bringing everyone back to the focus point. By rephrasing and summarizing, you bring a new interpretation and also check on your comprehension of the problem/ issue, but the trick one need to listen very carefully.
- So if you get all the details from the MIS team, will you be able to submit the report, is that correct?
- If I heard you correctly, you felt very upset about the way you had been treated by your manager?
Now you are aware of the many techniques of questioning, feel free to use the same in situations that best for it. But make sure that you give the person enough time to respond. They may need time to reflect or think before they respond to you, so don’t take their silence as negative response and plow on. By asking the right questions, you can help the other person solve a problem, work through an issue, or make a decision.
|Are there things you observe that you might be able to leverage?||What things do you observe that you might be able to leverage?|
|Why did you choose to go with this option for the problem?||What characteristics of the problem make it important for you right now?|
|What could you do, how might you do that and by when?||What could you do? (then later ask the other two questions separately if they are still appropriate)|
|Did you ask your manager?||Who else might you be able to approach for insight and perspective on this issue?|
|I ran into a similar situation myself and I tried…||How have you handled similar situations in the past?|
|Let’s talk about….||Where would you like to go next?|