The Secret Of Successful Questioning

Asking questions is a key skill in all aspects of our life and work – the technique is very important in working with individuals, teams, in solving problems and in establishing and measuring the capabilities and skills of staff in a wide range of scenarios.

If we want to get to the bottom of a problem or to find out key pieces of information quickly and effectively when time is pressing or the deadline is looming, the trick is to ask Open questions rather than Closed questions.

Closed questions are questions that can only be answered with a simple Yes or No. As an example think of the following questions and see if you can answer them with anything other than a Yes or No:

  • Did you complete the Report I asked you to work on?
  • Will you send me the Report to my email inbox?

Closed questions give us nothing other than basic facts and tell us nothing about what has gone on or what needs to happen.

Open questions, on the other hand, shine a light into the detail of the situation and give us information that is meaningful.

There are many different types of Open questions but a very effective approach is to use the TED approach:

Tell me what happened.

Explain to me what happened.

Describe to me what happened.

By using the TED approach you can progressively uncover details and issues in any situation or issue but the real detail comes with the Describe question, where the response then gives you further detail to drill down into.

Simple Closed questions should be avoided at all costs, except for establishing base facts which can then be explored, carefully and systematically, with a series of Open questions that then uncover a wealth of detail and understanding.

Good Luck!

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