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Why Open Questions?

There is a beautiful tool that you can use to connect with others in a conversation: Open Questions.

Conversations involve Questions and Answers

You may be asking, “What is an Open Question?” My answer is, “Exactly, you just used one!” They don’t have a “yes” or “no” answer. Instead, the inquiry allows an answer that comes from the mind of the one being asked. There is no definitive answer that is right or wrong, and the answer is not subject to judgment.

The Power of Open Questions

So why are open questions so powerful in a conversation? Because they help connect in a way different than leading, closed questions. Think of a courtroom drama – If the prosecutor asks the witness, “Did you see the defendant shoot the gun?” the instant response from the defense attorney is, “Objection, your honor! leading the witness!” So the prosecutor redirects, “What did you see the defendant do?”

How would this work in a conversation at home or at work? Once we identify a problem, we find the root of the issue with only a few open questions instead of a multitude of closed (“yes/no”) queries. Instead of guessing and leading the other person to the answer that you have anticipated, the open question gets to their reason, their answer, their thoughts faster and more accurately.

Another Advantage

There is one more advantage to open questions in a conversation. Others can be heard when afforded an opportunity to respond with their own words. They are not stuck in the binary “just answer my yes or no question!” This is a scenario that frustrates both parties. Not every answer conveniently fits into yes or no: often there exist nuance or complications that need explanation.

Why Open Questions? Because they are effective, they promote better and more thorough understanding, and they serve to connect people in a conversation. Look for more CommLinks, communication, and leadership principles at P H Tyson & Associates!

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