(2 minute read)
Successful people ask better questions and, as a result, receive better answers.” (Tony Robbins)
In the early days of information technology development, a well-used phrase was; “Rubbish in – Rubbish out”. This was intended as a reminder that if we put the wrong information in, we’ll get the wrong information out.
How often have you been disappointed by someone’s response to your question, without ever considering the validity, context or value of the question you asked?
You may recall your parent’s frustration at your basic, one-worded response to their daily question of; “How was school today dear?”
In fact, their use of a simple ‘closed’ question was the direct cause of your indifferent response; “fine”.
What we should be challenging ourselves with is considering, “Is there a better question?”
In order to do this, we need to clarify what we are hoping to get from this verbal exchange?
Are we seeking clarification, confirmation, further information, possible alternatives, advice, agreement or commitment? It is the desired outcome which helps us determine which questioning strategy we should use in various situations.
Closed versus Open Questions:
Closed questions are useful for receiving brief, factual responses. E.g. “What’s the address?”
Open questions encourage longer responses. E.g. “What was discussed on the call today?”
These are useful for gathering more detail. E.g. “When will you need my decision?” (The addition of the word exactly can help you gain more precise details. E.g. “Who, exactly, should I forward my response to?”)
These are helpful in gaining buy-in from others. E.g. “The second version sounds much better than the first, don’t you think?” During a sales process, this may sound like; “If that all makes sense to you, can I show you the registration process?”
In conclusion – a challenge.
If you regularly use questions in your daily life, consider whether you could improve the type and structure of your questions. You may be pleasantly surprised at the responses you receive.