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Find Success By Asking Clear Questions
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Find Success By Asking Clear Questions

Have you ever thought how good you are at asking questions? Probably not. Asking questions is something we do naturally during the course of each day and therefore we tend to take it for granted. And yet the ability to ask questions is a skill and it’s one that the most successful people are very good at. Of course we’re all capable of asking questions but asking clear questions that are understood is not always so easy.

There are professions such as the police, lawyers, doctors, teachers, where the ability to ask clear questions is an obvious and vital part of their work and yet most of us have experienced occasions when we’ve dealt with professionals and been completely flummoxed by what they’ve said to us. Although you may have felt bad at not understanding what was said to you it’s actually the person asking the question who is responsible for asking it in a way that is clearly understood.

And that principle doesn’t just apply to professionals. It’s the same for any of us. Whatever the context whether you’re talking to people face to face, over the phone, online, writing letters, sending texts, making presentations if you need to pose a questions it’s your responsibility to make them clear as possible. Asking effective questions will enable you to get better information, waste less time in having to repeat what you’ve asked and feel less frustrated as people understand you better.

The most common type of question which you use every day is the open question which often starts with why, who, what, where, how and is used to encourage the recipient to provide information. However if you frame the same question in slightly different ways you will elicit more information and get more constructive answers.

For example if you were the owner of a hotel and asked ...‘What did you like about your stay?’

A guest might reply ‘The room was lovely and I enjoyed the dinners.'

However if you asked ‘What could we do to make your stay even better?’

The guest might reply ...'The room was lovely and the view great. I’d have liked a couple of folding chairs so I could have sat out on the balcony on the mild evenings.’

Both questions elicited positive response but by framing the second question slightly differently you would get more useful information that as a hotelier you could use to improve customer satisfaction. What someone suggests may not be viable but what they say could spark some other ideas and you could always ask further questions.

Open questions are not the only type of question we use on a regular basis. Closed questions are used when you want a yes or no answer; specific questions to find specific facts; probing questions to dig deep and find out more information; leading questions when you want to get the ‘right answer’; hypothetical questions to imagine certain situations and reflective questions that you can use to check for understanding.

Whatever the type of question you use or the context in which you use it always bear in mind that the aim is to collect information. Honing your questioning skills will undoubtedly lead to greater success in whatever you do.

Street Talk

You make a very good point about getting the kind of answers you are looking for. Your article makes a lot of sense. Thanks for giving me ideas on the kind of questions I ask and whether they usually give me helpful responses. However, not everyone will answer questions they believe are highly personal, and some people may be in a hurry to just leave and not want to talk about anything.

  about 8 years ago

Hi Sarah Thanks for your comments. I agree with you it can be a real challenge to get information you need if people are reluctant to give it and that's why question is a skill that people need to practice. Beverley

  about 8 years ago
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