Asking the right questions means you will receive better quality answers.
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. This wastes time and can end up sending us on a wild goose chase. The right questions do the opposite. They give us the information we need, when we need it. Appropriate questions open doors, instead of closing them.
No matter who we are or what we do, we ask questions all the time. We use them to learn more about our tasks, our roles, and the world around us. We also use them to understand people better.
So, learning how to ask good questions is an important communication skill. There are several techniques and strategies you can use to help you do this.
One of them is knowing when to ask the closed questions.
A closed question is one that 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 using a closed question, because she can only answer "yes" or "no." And then the conversation finishes.
An open question is more effective, because it encourages the other person to provide more information. For instance, asking a colleague, "What did you cover during the meeting today?" is an open question. This is because you’re asking him to give you a longer, more detailed answer.
Another useful questioning technique is "funneling."
Police detectives often use it when they want witnesses to remember specific events or details. This strategy involves starting with general questions, homing in on each answer, and then asking for more and more detail.
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. For instance, imagine you want to find out how a meeting went between one of your colleagues and a potential client. You can use the funneling technique to get the information you need.
So, you begin by asking your team member, "Did you meet with the client?"
She answers, "Yes."
Then you ask, "Did they seem interested in the product?"
And she says, "Yes, but they wanted to know more."
Next you ask, "What was the client's body language like while you were talking?"
Your team member thinks for a moment, and says, "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, "Is the client happy to schedule a follow-up meeting?"
And then your team member says, "Actually, he is. He wanted to know if we'd be able to meet a tight delivery deadline, and I told him we could."
Because you used the funneling technique, you know that your team member did a great job during the meeting, and that your organization will likely get an order from this new client.
Knowing when to ask the right question is an essential communication skill. You can use open and closed questioning, and funneling, to get essential information.
There are several other effective questioning techniques you can use. You can learn more about these in the article that accompanies this video.