The Art of Asking Questions

Most children learn rather early in life that when you don’t know something you ask someone who might have an answer. But as you grow into sophisticated adulthood you learn that asking good questions, that truly facilitate communication, is an art. We’ve chosen the questioning approach to check your current skill-level in this vital area-answer TRUE or FALSE:

1. It’s better to start out with the hardest questions and to wind up with the easy ones.

2. Try to make many of your questions answerable by a simple “yes” or “no.”

3. The way you ask the question is at least as important as what you ask.

4. You should largely ignore the “feelings” components and focus on the logical content.

5. To get valid answers (facts) you should somehow box him or her in.

6. Showing a sincere interest in the other usually reduces his defensiveness.

7. It’s usually better to use open-ended questions rather than closed-end ones.

8. Avoid posing threats to his status, future, or well-being.

9. Try to read his hidden meanings and get right to the core issue.

10. If he’s not answering your questions, point that out to him.

Answer Key:

Questions are little bit tricky to try to challenge the depth of your questioning skills, but tricky questions are not usually desirable in ordinary communication. #1 is false as just the opposite is true in order to first build rapport. #2 is false as you are not getting him to talk with simple yes and no answers. #3, #6, #7, and #8 are all true and very basic to good communications. Answer “false” to #4 because you must read accurately his feelings and attitudes and show him you understand.

Only the lower-type situation would call for boxing him in (#5 false). Threat usually leads to falsification, rationalization, and anger. #10 is false too as that is usually too threatening and he will likely back-off. You should indeed try to read his hidden meanings, but should be very slow and gentle in surfacing them in your questioning (#9 false).

IF you got all these questions correct you may indeed be a good question asker. But we know too that it takes many other personal qualities such as patience, respect, friendliness, good will and probably some training if it’s your business to be able to ask good questions. But let’s get back to the simplicity of childhood “If you don’t know, ask.”

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