7 steps to better questions

May 30 2021

Better questions deepen relationships, build trust, and increase confidence. With intention and practice, your questions can become tools that strengthen your business and enhance personal relationships. Here are seven ways you can start:

1. Begin with an informed approach.

Before asking any questions, do your research. Learn more about the company, read up on the open position, see what you can find about the person you are interviewing. The best questions are grounded in knowledge. When you understand more about the person you’re speaking with, you can shape questions to be more engaging, thought-provoking, and relevant.

2. Get curious.

The best questions come from a genuine place of curiosity. Asking questions with sincere interest provides the platform for questions to serve as welcome invitations, not invasive challenges. Remember: Curiosity fosters excitement, and excitement is contagious. Your interest conveys positive intention.

3. Mirror spoken and unspoken language.

Notice the language used by the person you’re speaking with. Are they communicating in a formal tone or comfortable with casual phrases? How about their body language; are their hands folded in their lap or are their arms crossed over their chest? Just as you can mirror someone’s body language, you can also copy their speech. Observe patterns in pitch, vocabulary, and physical posture. You don’t need to imitate someone, but reflecting their physical and verbal communication styles can establish rapport and create a sense of familiarity.

4. Lead with empathy.

While asking questions, seek to understand that person’s worldview. What contributes to the way they see the world? How do they interpret events around them? Maintaining eye contact, using appropriate physical markers (nodding, facing your body towards the person you’re speaking to, and uncrossing your arms), and asking clarifying questions are ways to display empathy. Respect encourages openness and honesty.

5. Stay present.

If a difficult topic or answer arises, remain focused and grounded on the present moment. Do your best to avoid unnecessary distractions from your phone and the environment around you. If you’re struggling to hear the other person, make adjustments, and if the circumstance is too distracting, kindly ask to schedule another time to meet.

6. Open a door.

Open questions usher meaningful conversations. A question that can be answered by a “Yes” or “No” or a simple phrase won’t invite reflection or engagement. While open questions may be more challenging to ask (you’ll have to think carefully), these kinds of questions are more valuable for relationship-building. Here are a few examples of open and closed questions:

Closed: Did you have a good day?

Open: What was the best part of your day?

Closed: Did you like that product?

Open: Which feature was most valuable for you?

Closed: Do you like to travel?

Open: What’s your favorite travel memory?

Closed: Are you happy with our meeting?

Open: How are you feeling after our meeting?

The point of a good question is to open doors for conversation to take place.

7. Listen with intention.

After you ask a question, pay attention. Listening carefully after you’ve asked a question shows willingness to understand and learn. Instead of viewing silence as a rebuff, reframe it as a breath: You’re opening the bottle and giving ideas room to expand. Pause provides space for reflection and thought. Let the person fully explore your question and their answer.

How do you ask questions? Tell me on twitter @redheadlefthand.