How Do I Ask Better Questions?

How important is it to ask good questions? It’s very important. It’s important you use questioning skills to help you completely understand the caller’s situation. Otherwise, you could be responding to what you guess the caller means, which may or may not be correct. Questioning goes beyond listening.

Effective questioning is a real compliment to your skills. It shows that you have the ability to understand the caller’s real needs. It shows that you are looking for meaning that’s deeper than the spoken message. Effective questioning is a powerful, learned skill. It says to the caller, “I’m interested in determining your needs.”

Questioning can be put into two divisions: Open-Ended Questions and Closed-Ended Questions.

Open-Ended Questions: Open-ended questions are questions without a fixed limit. They encourage continued conversation, and help you get more information. Plus, they often provide opportunities to gain insight into the other person’s feelings. Open-ended questions draw out more information. If you want the caller to open up, use open-ended questions that start with who, what, where, why, when, and how. A few examples are:

“What are some of the things you look for in a hotel?”

“How do you feel government could be more responsive to your needs?”

“What are your concerns about this new program?”

Closed-Ended Questions: Closed-ended questions have a fixed limit. They’re often answered with a yes or no, or with a simple statement of fact. Closed-ended questions are used to direct the conversation. They usually get specific information or confirm facts. Here are some examples.

“Do you have health insurance?”

“Do you want the new brochure?”

“Would you be interested in that?”

We use the open-ended questions to get more information and the closed-ended questions to focus in on one area.

The bottom line is to practice using a variety of questioning techniques. It will help you help every time you deal with others.

Adapted from Nancy Friedman