Drilling Deep – How to Use Questions Effectively in Your Daily Communication?
Questions can be annoying. For most of us, being placed in a position to respond (at times, immediately) with a correct, complete and competent answer is a stressful situation. In our last article (click to read: Dealing with Difficult Questions – How to Respond with Confidence and Flair), we covered the various ways you can use to respond to difficult questions. Well, time to turn the tables around and learn how you too can use questions effectively to get to the bottom of the issues you are discussing.
Questions are an underrated but effective tool in your communication settings, be it an informal conversation with a friend or a high-stakes board meeting. The use of questions offers your discussion/conversation partners the stage to speak and share. It is an effective information-gathering tool by allowing all parties to dwell deeper into a particular topic. This technique requires a balance between the type and strategy for your questions to your audience, to avoid putting them in the situation you would not want to be in in the first place!
To help you craft your question strategy, let us share 3 simple tips on how you can use questions effectively in your day-to-day communication.
Tip #1: Open with Open-Ended Questions
Conversational skills may not come readily to all of us. These skills range from starting conversations to continuing them in a meaningful manner. For some, the latter is a tougher ask, especially when you are faced with a reluctant or outright hostile counterpart who refuses to engage in a conversation. In that scenario, the temptation to abandon your efforts at a conversation is strong. However, the next time you encounter this scenario, try opening with open-ended questions to elicit deeper and longer responses from others.
As the term suggests, open-ended questions are questions which allow for a broad range of answers from your partner. It requires the other person to give more than a one-word or sentence response. When crafted artfully, open-ended questions also show genuine and sincere interest in the conversation topics. Compare these two conversation flows:
|Conversation A||Conversation B|
|Alex: The weather is quite warm today, isn’t it?
Alex: Do you work around here?
Alex: As a doctor?
|Alex: What do you think about the weather today?
Jane: Oh, the weather is quite warm and humid
Alex: Where do you work?
Jane: I work around here, as a doctor.
Alex: Oh, that’s interesting, and how do you find your job?
As you can already tell, Conversation A is stilted and proceeds in a halting manner, whereas Conversation B flows smoothly. More importantly, Conversation B opens up more avenues for Alex to move the conversation. For example, Jane’s response to her occupation allows Alex to explore in greater detail about her job. This is the potential that lies in the use of open-ended questions.
Tip #2: Build In Close-Ended or Leading Questions to Zero In
Like most things, though, an over-reliance on open-ended questions may turn your conversation partner away. A relentless list of open-ended questions will feel like a fact-finding crusade instead of a sincere and genuine interaction. The solution, of course, is not to convert every single question to a close-ended one. A close-ended question is one that limits the parameters of your counterparty’s answer. It tends to elicit a short word/phrase answer. In contrast, a leading question is one that elicits a mono-syllabic answer (i.e. yes or no). The latter is often used in interrogation settings, with the answer already embedded in the question asked.
Why then should we use close-ended or leading questions in our conversations? Well, for a start, close-ended questions are effective ways to exhibit active listening skills. Try adding close-ended questions into your conversation flow, creating a contrast between information-gathering and information-consolidation. For example, close-ended questions are a useful way of showing empathy or understanding.
Take this sample conversation:
While the blueprint of a conversation is unlikely to be planned with precision, having a general guide will go a long way in ensuring that you maintain a healthy, engaging and deep conversation with your counterparty!
Tip #3: Follow with Follow-Up Questions
Beyond open-ended, close-ended and leading questions, another effective tool to grow your conversation is the use of follow-up questions. These are questions that still follow the same conversation line to delve deeper into the topic discussed. Follow-up questions can come in various forms – from open-ended to leading questions – but the aim is to unpack a specific topic and go beyond superficial conversations.
One method is to adopt the “Why” approach. The “Why” questions allow you to venture into reasons, opinions or even emotional aspects of your conversation partner. Taking the conversation above, if Alex asked “Why did you choose a doctor as an occupation?”, Jane will be encouraged to venture into a longer exposition based on her thoughts and experiences. Alternatively, asking a “What about” question also helps your conversation move through various channels. We call this the Perspective-Building approach. The objective is to ask questions that will make your conversation partner think about another perspective. This will continue to build a strong growth process for your conversations!
Dive Deeper in Your Conversations!
*If you want meaningful conversations…make the effort, take the plunge!
Conversations may be fluid and unpredictable, but this should not give you an excuse to not have a general approach to them. These approaches may end up to be the defining factor in high-stake situations such as networking sessions or even that tea session with the boss. By tying the points we shared above, thread a conversation strategy that works for you and start turning your conversations into meaningful and insightful interactions!
Throughout our adult public speaking programmes, be it our weekly or immersive 2-day effective communication skills training programmes, there is a strong emphasis on training our adult learners on impromptu speaking skills – how to response to challenging questions with finesse! If you wish to enhance your public speaking AND interpersonal communication skills, let Public Speaking Academy help you with that 👇
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