Created by Mark Wagner

#favouritemodels No. 15 - Questioning techniques

Questions basically start a dialogue and open the door to the person we are talking to. If two people talk to each other without asking each other questions, they inevitably talk at cross purposes.

So it is simply part of the essence of communication that it is structured by questions! A clever questioning technique helps to create a positive atmosphere and to find out more information about the conversation or negotiation partner and his goals. There are different types of questions, the correct use of which can be very helpful for us during a conversation. I would like to present you some of these types of questions and show you in which occasions you can apply them.

Opening questions

Opening questions differ from closing questions by offering the interviewee a much wider range of possible answers. With this style of questioning, you open up your counterpart, so to speak, and encourage him or her to give you varied and broader information on which you can then in turn build the conversation. Some authors refer to this type of question as "open questions" or "Wh-questions". Thus, these begin with question words such as: who, what, when, where, why, whose, with what, which, how and so on.  Opening questions cannot be answered with "yes" or "no", but only with a complete sentence. Accordingly, they are always helpful if you want to get a detailed, individual answer and as much information as possible.

  • What do you think about the planned reforms?
  • What do you think of Mr. Meier's proposal?
  • ,,How would you assess the situation in ... ...?''
  • Why do you want to leave your job?

Closing questions

Closing question types open only a limited number of answer options to the respondent. That is why this type of question is called "closed". The answer to such a classic closing question is usually "yes" or "no", whereby this then refers to the very specific information requested. Closing questions are accordingly suitable for ascertaining preliminary and/or additional information or for clarifying or emphasizing important details of a conversation. Closing questions are particularly good tools when you want to obtain information briefly and concisely or reach a consensus quickly and purposefully in the course of a conversation:

  • Do you have....?
  • Can you...?
  • Do you agree with it?
  • Are we in agreement up to this point?

However, using closing questions can also lead to undesirable results. This style of questioning steers the conversation away from the perspective and intellectual world of the questioner. Thus, valuable ideas and backgrounds may remain unspoken, which only the counterpart knows and which could contribute to illuminating the entire context. Therefore, their use should always be carefully weighed according to the situation.

Solution-oriented WH-questions

Another questioning technique becomes interesting for settings in which complex problems and contexts need to be questioned and reflected upon. These are usually coaching situations in which the person seeking advice wants to look deeply behind a topic and new (self-)insights are gained.  In such contexts, solution-oriented questions make it possible to break out of deadlocked thought and problem patterns. This is because solution-oriented questions can also help to address unconscious beliefs, patterns of action, longings and unfulfilled emotions. Often it is only from this knowledge and with a changed perspective that fresh ideas and possible solutions can be developed. Examples of these types of questions are:

  • What exactly is your issue? How do you describe the condition that is currently problematic for you?
  • How does it make you feel?
  • What could be the reason for this situation or your feeling?
  • What should be different, what is your goal?
  • How would you know that your problem is solved?
  • When was it different before?
  • When does the problem not occur?
  • What do you think you need for a solution of your problem?
  • What can stay and for which situations would that be useful?

How does my #favouritemodel help you?

Questioning techniques help in a wide variety of contexts. It is wonderful to open up new horizons with questions. Be it in a coaching or leadership situation.

With their help, one can easily and simply initiate new ways of thinking and bring individuals and teams to solutions. Inquired solutions are also often free of "advice" and thus, from my experience, have a much higher probability of implementation. By the way, these can be practiced in the private and professional environment! ;-)) Good luck and have fun practicing.

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