Getting better at asking questions

No matter whether it is in written or spoken form, questions help us to get answers. But are we asking the right questions to get the answer that we want? If you see an issue with your business, partnership, friendship or other elements in your life that don’t appear quite so successful, well, the answer here might just be no, you’re not. If that’s the case, then you need to start getting better at communicating and ask the right questions.

For the question on the tip of your tongue, the answer is YES. Topcontent is here to help. Let’s think about some key points to consider when asking a question. You need to know what you want, i.e. Is it an opinion? A factual answer? An expert opinion? Whatever it may be, the way you frame your question will affect the answer that you will receive, and whether it is of any use to you. When you know the information you require, then you can frame the question to get the best possible result.

Avoid Yes or No

This is such a common mistake that it has to go first. Asking what a simple question is will elicit a simple answer. By giving the respondent a fifty-fifty chance in their reply, you are never going to get much information. This is also called a closed-ended question and can be good for getting quick snippets of info, particularly from those who may not have time. But if you want in-depth insights or additional information, then you need to change tact.

You also limit yourself when asking a yes/no question. You can only use the knowledge you have about a given situation to phrase the question. You’ll be missing out on a whole ton of information you didn’t know existed. With that in mind, it’s important to start a question with a range of questioning words such as ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘why’, ‘how’ and’when’, all of which will prompt the respondent to think about their answer and provide you with some must more detailed information.

Getting into the nitty-gritty

Once you have started with the first question flowing, you’ll need to have follow-up questions, unless you only want the absolute facts. Follow-up questions are perfect for finding out a little bit more about a situation and enable you to get some more personalised feedback from the respondent regarding how they think or feel about a situation or event. Sometimes it is the follow-up questions that reveal the true facts of the matter, rather than just the fact-based opener.

For instance, you may be discussing with a co-worker regarding a customer that has been complicated to work with. This can be followed up with a question as to WHY this is the case. This will bring you into so much more information and provide further details on the situation, which can then lead you to make better-informed decisions about the course of action to take. Getting deeper into the issue is only possible with these additional, more probing questions.

Keeping quiet

Surprisingly, some of the best information you’ll get is when you say nothing at all. Once you are comfortable with asking questions, you should begin to get used to waiting and listen to the answer. Waiting more, leaving a pause, will often cause the respondent to fill the gap, giving you more information. This is a neat trick commonly used by journalists, police and even military to gently coerce interviewees to reveal a little more information than they intended.

This means that you will have to be comfortable in these breaks of silence if this is going to work. Strangely enough, people seem to need to fill up gaps in conversation, even more so if they are unfamiliar with the person or the atmosphere is an uncomfortable one. To fill up the silence (it’s a true power tool), they can, quite often, give up pertinent information that you may not have acquired if you had asked for it outright.

No interruptions

Finally, it is important not to interrupt the person you are talking to. Interrupting can put people off, distract them, ruin a train of thought or even cause the conversation to get directed off course (unless you are aiming to change topics of course!). No matter if you are not getting the answer you desire, it’s still important to sit back and wait, let the respondent get to the answer in their own time. If you do have to interrupt to steer a conversation back, be as polite as possible.

Have you got it?

It’s quite simple though, of course, like everything in life, asking a great question will take a little bit of practice. You won’t get it perfect every time, but who does? That’s a rhetorical question by the way, which you should also avoid when trying to get valid information. Your questioning prowess will improve over time, but in the interim, Topcontent is here to help, giving you the right questions and providing significant answers!