Questioning Techniques

Video Transcript


Ask better questions,
with James Manktelow & Amy Carlson.

James Manktelow: Hello. I'm James Manktelow, CEO of MindTools.com, home to hundreds of free career-boosting tools and resources.

Amy Carlson: And I'm Amy Carlson from Mind Tools.

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins once said, "Successful people ask better questions and, as a result, they get better answers." And there's no doubt he's right.

When we ask the wrong questions, we don't get the information we need.

They not only waste time, but they can even give us the wrong information, sending us on a wild goose chase.

The right questions do the opposite. They give us the information we need, when we need it. With the right questions, we open doors instead of close them.

JM: No matter who we are or what we do, we ask questions all the time. We ask them to learn more about our tasks, our roles, and the world around us.

We also ask questions to get to know people better, and to discover something significant that we need to know.

So, knowing how to ask good questions is an important communication skill.

AC: There are several techniques and strategies that you can use to ask better questions. One of these is to know when to ask open or closed questions.

A closed question can be answered with a simple yes or no, or with a very short statement.

For instance, if you ask a colleague, "Did the meeting go well?", you're asking a closed question, because she can just say, "Yes" or "No."

And, then the conversation finishes.

JM: Asking an open question is more effective, because it forces the other person to open up and give you more detail.

For instance, asking a colleague, "What did you go over during the meeting today?" is an open question. This is because the question forces him to give you a longer, more detailed answer.

AC: Another useful questioning technique is called funneling. This is when you start off with easy, closed questions, and then ask more specific questions as you go along.

Police detectives often use funneling when they're trying to get witnesses to remember specific events or details.

But, you can use funneling to gain the interest or confidence of someone you're talking to, or to get more information about a specific topic.

JM: For instance, imagine that you want to find out more about a meeting between one of your team members and a new client. You could use the funneling technique to help you get the information you need.

So, you'd begin by asking your team member, "Did you meet with the client?"

She'd answer, "Yes."

Then you ask, "Were you on time?"

And she'd say, "Yes, I was there ten minutes early."

AC: Next you ask, "What was the client's body language like while you were talking?"

Your team member thinks a moment, and then says, "I think it was pretty open and engaged. He looked me in the eye, and I didn't see him fidgeting while I was speaking. He seemed to pay attention the entire time."

You finally ask, "Did the client have any questions after you finished your pitch?"

And then your team member says, "Actually, he did. He wanted to know if we'd be able to meet an aggressive deadline that he has in his own firm. I told him that we could."

Since you used the funneling technique, you know that your team member did a great job during the meeting, and that your firm will likely get an order from this new client.

JM: Knowing how to ask the right question is an essential communication skill. You can use open and closed questioning, and funneling, to get the information you need.

There are several further questioning strategies that are really useful. You can learn more about these in the article that accompanies this video.


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