In any type of conversation, asking questions is a crucial part of it. Effective communication does not just require active listening but also the ability to ask the right, relevant questions.
We ask different kinds of questions to the people we talk to. When seeking for more information, we ask open ended questions. These questions are asked to encourage the speaker to talk more about the topic or anything that interests the speaker. Using open-ended questions should be done frequently in a conversation as it makes us “tell our own stories.”
The skill of asking questions, particularly open-ended questions, is very essential in various aspects and vocations such as court hearing, mediation, research & survey, investigation, education, counseling, and journalism. Some individuals fail to understand the essence of this type of questioning. So, it is the goal of this article to make us understand the concept of open ended questions and its importance in our interaction with other people.
Manner of Asking Open Ended Questions
Open ended questions, as opposed to closed ended questions, are not answerable by yes or no. These questions do not require simple responses nor do they aim for specific information.
It is designed to draw out explicit responses from a person’s knowledge and feelings. The responses tend to be subjective especially if a person is asked for personal opinions or viewpoints.
In the manner of asking such question, always know the difference between getting a simple response and elaborate answers. This can be determined by the kind of verbs that are used to start the question.
Open-ended questions usually start with “What”, “How”, “Why”, and phrases like “Tell me about…” However, in some cases, asking “Why” may not be suitable for the situation as it may trigger an argument or misunderstanding between speakers in a conversation. But it can be a good follow-up after asking a closed ended question.
In a normal and casual conversation, we simply ask questions in a random manner without following a certain pattern or technique. But in a particular vocation, creating a method or strategy in the manner of asking open ended questions helps in eliciting the needed information. You might want to start first with a closed ended question then supported by an open ended question or you can do the other way around.
Examples of Open Ended Questions
Questions that start with “Who”, “Where”, and “When” may not be considered open ended because they provide specific responses. The following are examples of open ended questions that may be used in various contexts:
- How can I help you?
- Tell me more about…
- Could you help me understand…?
- What are advantages and disadvantages about (subject matter/topic)…?
- What is the next thing you will do if…?
- Why? Why not? (after asking a closed ended question usually started with “Did”)
- How would you know if…?
- What do you feel about (subject matter/topic)?
- What do you think about (subject matter/topic)?
- Tell me what you think about…
- How do you plan to…?
- Better Conversations with Open Ended Questions
A conversation filled with closed ended questions becomes incomplete and does not leave room for open communication. With open ended questions, there are more opportunities of transitioning from one topic to another which basically means gathering more ideas in a conversation. It makes a person think deep and express ideas as well as feelings about something. People who lack openness will eventually develop cognitive growth when asked questions that force them to contemplate and express their opinions.
Asking open ended questions makes better conversations because it allows other people to talk. It also develops a person’s listening skill since a person being asked will tend to be elaborative and lengthy in answering so the listener will need to listen to what is being said.
This manner of questioning is very useful in problem solving, creative thinking, and information gathering. Apart from making better conversations, it helps in promoting a stronger bond with other people as it allows for a more open and comfortable manner of communication. Even with misunderstandings and disagreements, open ended questions bridge gaps and lead people to a common understanding.
If you aim to gather more information from other people, open ended questions are best used to elicit a wide range of responses and elaborate explanations.