Questioning Skills

by Steve Roche

Common questions

  1. Why should I care about good questioning?
  2. What is the essence of a good question?
  3. What is the best way to ask questions?
  4. What is a powerful question?

 

1. Why should I care about good questioning?

Good listening and skilful questioning give a powerful message to those with whom you interact. They hugely increase your capacity to influence, motivate, develop or serve people effectively. This is a major factor in the success of a good communicator.

Good questions allow us to demonstrate that we are paying attention to the thoughts, feelings and behaviours of the other person, and seeing the world through their eyes. This is key to maintaining productive relationships, and sometimes the only way to establish communication.

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2. What is the essence of a good question?

To ask good questions you need to be clear about your objectives, so that you can make an informed choice of questioning approach. Certain types of question will be more or less helpful than others in doing the job for you. The skill lies in selecting or formulating the most appropriate question for the situation.

Many business processes follow a general pattern of moving from open questioning through to more specific closed questions, in order to achieve commitment, action or closure.

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3. What is the best way to ask questions?

To avoid coming across as an interrogator, you need to be aware that many of the suggested questions can seem quite challenging to the other person. Repeated questions can feel like a legal cross-examination.

People may not take kindly to having the limitations in their thinking exposed. Pay attention to the responses and always maintain rapport, without which no communication will ever be entirely successful. Moderate the questions by using your voice tone or by using softening phrases.

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4. What is a powerful question?

The most powerful questions are those which cause people to search in a new direction – towards a new insight, action, or commitment. They are delivered with timing and rapport.

The simplest questions can be most powerful: ‘What’s next?’, ‘How will you do that?’ and, above all, ‘What do you want?’

Notice the powerful questions that work for you: what do they have in common? How is curiosity central to them? An incisive question can remove a limiting assumption from your thinking by replacing it with a freeing one.

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