How to ask better more productive questions

You’ve heard the recommendation, and possibly adopted it too: All the time ask open-ended questions and by no means restrict your self to Sure/No solutions.

It’s well-intentioned recommendation, but it surely’s unsuitable.

I ask questions for a dwelling. It’s a part of my job as a sports activities broadcaster. After hundreds of interviews, I do know firsthand that open-ended questions create confusion, and “sure” or “no” may be essentially the most correct and highly effective reply. I additionally know that asking more intentional and strategic questions leads to better listening expertise and more productive conversations.


Harvard researchers have pointed to the significance of asking questions as a means to change into more likable and construct relationships. What the analysis fails to take into account is that this:

1. Our requirements aren’t excessive sufficient.

2. We spend an excessive amount of time asking lazy questions and never sufficient time strategizing the very best questions.

There’s no better instance of this than a query we ask and reply a number of occasions a day, “How are you?” It’s a conversational norm and one thing we embrace as a part of a regular greeting. It’s additionally a horrible query regardless of being open-ended. I guess you by no means stopped to take into account what number of methods there are to reply that query as a result of most individuals provide up a single phrase like, “Good,” “Advantageous,” or “Nice.” Happy we received a response, however with no actual info, we transfer on, usually awkwardly, to the following a part of the interplay. It’s an change with no actual communication.

It doesn’t have to be that means.

You’ll be able to enhance that interplay and each dialog you’ve got at work by doing these three issues.

Table of Contents


Decide your goal

Be as particular as you may. Getting to know a candidate is totally different than figuring out if that candidate has the resiliency to handle the inevitable change they’ll expertise in a startup tradition. Going right into a dialog and hoping the solutions will reveal themselves places a number of stress on you and a number of strain on the opposite individual. It’s how we find yourself asking “How are you?” after which getting caught once we don’t get an fascinating response or a response that furthers the dialog. When you don’t know what you’re making an attempt to accomplish, you may’t count on anybody else to know both.

Ask centered questions

Right here’s the actual drawback with “How are you?” It’s too broad. It creates confusion when what you need to be creating is a snug dialog monitor. The rationale most individuals go for a one-word response to that query is that it’s the most secure response.

Positive, they may discuss a challenge they’re engaged on, the strain they’re below at work, their youngsters’ soccer match, or the truth that they’ve caught to their exercise routine for a complete month, however they received’t as a result of there’s no indication that’s the reply you’re in search of. Nobody desires to put themselves on the market, change into susceptible, and danger sharing an excessive amount of with out the peace of mind that’s what you anticipated to hear.

Asking centered questions offers folks permission to provide the actual reply. Targeted questions additionally provide help to attain your goals. Why would you like to work at this firm? Might change into, “What’s the ability you’ve developed within the final 5 years that you just suppose may be most impactful right here?” When you’re figuring out if a candidate has the resiliency wanted for the place, “How did you deal with a difficult state of affairs?” Could possibly be, “How did you present grit in coping with a problem?”

As a substitute of asking “How are you,” select a selected matter, topic, or emotion.

  • What are you most enthusiastic about at this time?
  • How are you managing the extra workload?
  • You’re not smiling as a lot as common. Are you doing okay?

It appears counterintuitive, however limiting the potential responses and asking more centered questions leads to not simply better solutions, however actual solutions. And when these questions are tied to assembly a selected goal, you’ll be a more attentive listener as a result of precisely what you’re listening for.

Make the most of Sure/No questions

Talking of counterintuitive, Sure/No questions, whereas taboo in accordance to typical knowledge, are one of the simplest ways to keep within the loop and get actionable suggestions. Take into consideration what number of occasions you’ve despatched an electronic mail with this closing line, “Let me know what you suppose.” What’s your common price of response? Does asking the query, “What did I miss?” really lead to pertinent info or a prolonged change that simply wastes everybody’s time? It would sound more accommodating and conversational to maintain issues open-ended, however as we’ve already seen, it received’t lead to actual solutions.

Once you want an actual reply, give folks fewer choices. As a substitute of, “What did I miss?” you might ask, “Did you already focus on the brand new advertising and marketing rollout?” “Let me know what you suppose” turns into “Does the scope of the proposal suit your price range?” As a substitute of asking a brand new rent, “Did I cowl the whole lot?” attempt, “Do you’re feeling assured you’ve got sufficient info to get began?”

Better communication begins with asking better questions. It’s a recreation changer in gauging worker satisfaction, interviewing candidates, onboarding new hires, and getting to know coworkers you haven’t seen in individual for almost two years, if ever. Taking the time to suppose by means of the dialog from each side will provide help to determine roadblocks within the dialog, cut back confusion, improve communication, and ask better questions.

Jen Mueller is a 20-year sports activities broadcasting veteran primarily based in Seattle, Washington, and the founding father of Talk Sporty to Me.