October 28, 2021

An Investigation Into Questions

A neon question mark.
Photo by Simone Secci on Unsplash
610 words; 2 min 26 sec reading time



Have you ever felt that you could have communicated better?  Have you ever wondered how to converse for greater understanding and response during a business or transactional dialogue? This post will try to offer insight on how to ask better questions.

What can you achieve with questions?

Questions have helped build the world around us since humans started asking each other queries. Certainly, questions were asked before, during, and after on endeavours taken throughout history. Asking questions helps define communication between individuals. Imagine working without the ability to formulate a question and not having the ability to receive an answer. For example, curiosity often drives fundamental research. Don't undervalue questions. Questions are powerful tools for answers.

The idea that our educational system is removing children's natural tendencies to ask questions continues to circulate on the internet and social media. Instead of encouraging the asking of better questions, children are encouraged and rewarded to give answers. But good answers, generally, come from an individual or a group of individuals with a valuable initial question.

What are common uses for questions?

Use questions to learn, teach, establish relationships, and communicate. A question is a request for information. One can request information in several ways, but simply asking a simple question is the most straightforward way. Questions advance knowledge and unite the involved people for a possible mutually productive exchange. A remark may be a question disguised as a definitive statement, but it functions as a question if it elicits an answer and further informs.  

Why are you asking?

Always ask yourself what, why, and whom you are asking. Are you asking for facts and factual information? Are you asking for opinions? Why are you asking this person? Are you looking for an expert opinion or advice? Asking yourself these basic questions will provide clarity on how to structure your information-gathering conversation.

What are close and open questions?

A close question is either yes, no, or has a limited set of potential answers. Close-ended questions offer an elementary data point. With a simple yes or no answer, the questioner achieves basic knowledge. A structured series of binary questions can take the participant through a complex decision tree. Another reason to ask yes or no questions is the short amount of time to build a stable foundation for comprehension. Put some effort into creating an appropriate list to understand the other person's current position as much as possible. The other downside in asking a series of yes/no questions is the lack of engagement the questioner might get from the individual.

Open questions, on the other hand, take longer and requires more effort to ask. A yes or no answer generally does not fully capture the nuance of these more inviting questions. These questions take time to answer and listen to. These questions require time and effort to formulate. But the wealth of information the questioner receives is greater and more nuanced than from a close question. Open questions can be more engaging and can foster a more interpersonal relationship with the respondent. Open-ended questions can provide the asker with the possibility for more significant interaction and profit.

What are probing questions?

Probing questions can either be open or close. What makes them probing is the depth of the inquiry. Does it make one think deeper about what was previously said? For a probing question to be searching, the question must uncover deeper information exposed by the prior question. Instead of revealing another layer underneath, it reaffirms the previous statement; this question is a clarifying type.

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