So far we have covered the first two ingredients of asking open questions. The third ingredient is the easiest. It is the technique or how you word the questions. When asking open questions, avoid all traces of a suggestion, action, recommendation, etc. Use “What…”, “How…”, “Tell me more about…”. Here are 2 clues that you haven’t asked an open question:
- Your question starts with “Have you…”, “Did you…, “Why didn’t you…”.
- Your question goes on and on? When you qualify your question, you turn it into a recommendation. With each addition or “clarification” to your question, you are actually reinforcing your already leading question.
Like any other skill, before asking open questions becomes a habit, you first need to practice.
Here are some sample open questions that may help:
- What does success look like?
- What do you want to accomplish?
- What is your desired outcome?
- What are your criteria for evaluating any solution?
- What else could be causes of your issue? What else?
- What is important about this?
- What have you already tried? What were the results?
- What is your contribution to this issue?
- What will happen if you don’t get a resolution on this issue?
- What is the extent and severity of the problem?
- How is this problem affecting you?
- How could this be handled differently?
- What is the worst thing about this?
- What are you worried about?
- What are you afraid of?
- What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
- What would be the financial impact if this were resolved?
- How much is it worth to you to resolve this?
- What would you personally be willing to do to change the situation?
- What are you going to do next?
Are you satisfied with the quality of your relationships and communication within your organization? Most CEOs, Presidents and Business Owners are not. If you are one of them, then try improving your listening and question-asking skills. In addition to building relationships, open questions combined with empathetic listening generate a free flow of information and ideas. Imagine how that could improve your organization.