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Tips to Avoid Asking Bad Questions

Categories: Facilitation Skills, Listening Skills

“There’s no such thing as a bad question.”

Many of us remember that line from our school days. I used to think it was a great way to encourage questions until I realized there actually are bad questions. Especially, if you want to use questions to engage people.

If I ask, “Did you have a nice weekend?” you can say, “yes” and then move on. If I want to engage you in a conversation, asking “What did you do that was fun this weekend?” strikes up a dynamic dialogue.

That is the difference between closed-ended questions and open-ended questions.

Open-ended questions create dialogue.

When presenting, we should strive for open-ended questions to engage our audience.

3 Tips to Engage with Questions:

  1. Begin your question with words like “how,” “why,” and “what”
  2. Ask a closed-ended question and then follow-up with an open-ended question by saying, “Tell me why you think that…” or “Explain that response.”
  3. Avoid questions like, “Does that make sense?” or “Is everyone following?” Not only are they closed-ended, but they might make someone feel self-conscious about saying they don’t

How do you transform closed-ended questions into open-ended questions that elicit dialogue?

Here are some examples:

Closed: Do you think this strategy could work in your department?
Open: What do you think about implementing this strategy in your department?

Closed: Is the deadline on everyone’s radar?
Open: What concerns or comments are there about the deadline?

Closed: Can I tell you a little more about this product?
Open: Where would you like to start our discussion about this product?

Closed: Does everyone understand?
Open: Where can I provide more clarity about what we just covered?

Closed: Is this making sense?
Open: Where can I elaborate?

Remember, questions are your friend! Use them and invite them. Worried about how you'll answer the questions that you elicit? Check out our blog on Handling Questions.


Build Your Skills: Empathetic Listening

Does your team need to improve their ability to ask questions and create dialogue? Questioning and listening skills are at the heart of powerful communications. Check out our Listening for Clarity and Connection and put new skills to work immediately for and in your team. 

One last example as a way to end this post:

Closed: Do you have any questions about questions?
Open: What questions do you have about questions?



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